BOSTON — State health officials have confirmed the first case of the coronavirus in Massachusetts amid a stepped-up global response to the outbreak of the deadly, pneumonia-like illness.
The new virus, first identified in Wuhan, China, has infected about 17,000 people and caused 360 deaths — mostly in China — as of Monday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Cases of the virus have been confirmed in at least 20 other countries and the U.S., according to the federal agency.
Over the weekend, the state Department of Public Health announced that a student at the University of Massachusetts at Boston who recently traveled to the affected region has tested positive for the coronavirus, the state’s first confirmed case. The unidentified man, in his 20s, has been isolated and is being treated, according to state health officials.
Gov. Charlie Baker said despite the confirmed case, the risk of getting coronavirus in Massachusetts remains “extremely low.” He said the individual doesn’t appear to have infected others in the state.
“People are not particularly concerned about his travels once he got back to Massachusetts,” Baker told reporters Monday. “He pretty much self-quarantined himself until he got tested.”
Baker urged those who have traveled to the affected region of China in recent weeks to stay home and watch for symptoms of the new virus, as recommended by health officials.
“The commonwealth is following the same guidelines that were put out by the CDC that everyone else is following,” Baker said.
On Friday, President Donald Trump declared a public health emergency and signed an executive order barring entry to foreign nationals who visited China within the last 14 days.
The restrictions don’t apply to immediate family of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who is coordinating the U.S. response, said the travel restrictions are necessary to prevent further spread of the disease.
He told reporters the public should expect more cases of the virus to be reported in coming weeks.
“The American public can be assured the full weight of the U.S. government is working to safeguard the health and safety of the American people,” he said at a press briefing.
As of Monday, the U.S. has started funneling all flights to the U.S. from China to 11 major airports, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York, where passengers can be screened for illness. Boston’s Logan Airport isn’t one those airports, but CDC officials have been screening international passengers for coronavirus symptoms.
The U.S. State Department previously issued a warning alerting Americans not to travel to China as a result of the outbreak, and has evacuated some U.S. citizens from the affected region.
Major U.S. airlines also canceled flights to mainland China until further notice, citing concerns about the virus.
Chinese authorities have taken draconian steps to prevent further spread of the illness, placing at least 15 cities and more 57 million people under full or partial lockdowns.
The coronavirus family includes infections that cause the common cold, but some found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses, health officials say.
Initial symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath.
There is no vaccine to ward off infection and no specific treatment for those who get sick aside from managing their symptoms, health officials said.
Health officials point out that a more common virus — the flu — poses a greater threat to Massachusetts residents than the coronavirus.
Nationwide, the flu is widespread in 48 states, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with an estimated 15 million confirmed cases and 8,200 deaths reported.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.