What to Know
- Illinois confirmed its fifth coronavirus case in a man who had recently flew to the airport after traveling to Italy
- Two previously confirmed cases are now in home isolation, but authorities have not yet determined how the pair contracted the virus
- The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 11 on Wednesday
O'Hare Airport isn't currently screening travelers arriving from Italy or South Korea for coronavirus, health officials revealed Thursday.
According to IEMA Director General Alicia Tate-Nadeau, only travelers entering O'Hare Airport from China and Iran will be screened. Those returning to the U.S. from Italy and South Korea are being screened prior to their departure from those countries, she noted.
Officials said they are working to determine whether or not additional guidelines will need to be in place for O'Hare Airport as Illinois confirmed its fifth coronavirus case in a man who had recently flew to the airport after traveling to Italy.
"The individual acquired the infection while in Italy and is hospitalized at Rush University Medical Center in isolation," the statement reads. "Public health officials are identifying and contacting all close contacts."
State health officials said they will be contacting and monitoring some passengers who were on the man's flight, but only those in the two rows in front and to the side of him.
The patient, who is in his 20s, was tested at an IDPH laboratory, officials said, and his specimens have been sent to the CDC for confirmatory testing.
Meanwhile, Illinois is recommending that anyone coming back from Italy home isolate for 14 days, even if they aren't showing symptoms. Those who do develop symptoms should contact the health department for testing.
“The state of Illinois is working around the clock to contain COVID-19 and educate the public,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “Public health officials anticipated there would be additional cases and we will continue to implement robust measures to contain the virus while also preparing for further transmission. The risk of COVID-19 to the general public in Illinois remains low, but we encourage the public to be vigilant and take extra care with the normal precautions you should take during flu season.”
The latest case is one of three confirmed in the last week in Illinois.
Two other recent cases, a husband and wife in their 70s, were in home isolation and "doing well," authorities said. Both patients tested positive in Illinois, but only one has been confirmed so far by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"At this time, the exposure route for the third and fourth cases is not known," the health department said in a statement. "Both individuals recently traveled to another state, but health officials have not been able to link them to a COVID-19 confirmed case in Illinois or the other state."
Health officials said because they have been unable to identify a point of exposure for the third and fourth patients, they believe it's possible the cases "may be due to community transmission in Illinois."
Worldwide, more than 94,000 people have been sickened and more than 3,200 have died from the rapidly-spreading virus.
“While we expect to see additional cases, we are not seeing widespread transmission of the virus in Illinois and we believe the risk to the general public remains low,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday. “We understand people are concerned, but we want to reassure residents that we have been working with local health departments, hospitals, clinicians, the CDC, and other state agencies around the clock and are using every resource at our disposal to prepare.”
In January, two Chicago residents, a husband and wife, were diagnosed with the coronavirus. The wife had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, to care for a relative.
Both patients were treated at AMITA Health St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and have since made a full recovery.
Last month, Illinois became the first state to conduct its own tests for the coronavirus, allowing for quicker results.
On Monday, officials said Pritzker requested that hospitals across the state implement additional testing to "improve surveillance for COVID-19."
The Illinois Department of Public Health launched a statewide hotline for the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, "to answer any questions from the public or to report a suspected case," Pritzker said. That number is 1 (800) 889-3931.