The Wuhan coronavirus has spread from person to person in the US for the first time — to the husband of a woman who went to China

A staff member checks the temperature of a passenger entering a subway station in Beijing on Tuesday.

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A staff member checks the temperature of a passenger entering a subway station in Beijing on Tuesday.
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Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

The US on Thursday reported its first case of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China.

The patient is a man in his 60s in Illinois whose wife recently traveled to China and caught the viral bug, officially known as 2019-nCoV, authorities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“It’s important to note that this spread was among two people who were in close contact for an extended period of time,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on Thursday. “Moving forward, we can expect to see more cases, and more cases mean the potential for more person-to-person spread.”

This is the sixth confirmed case of the coronavirus in the US. In China, more than 8,000 people have been confirmed to have it, and at least 170 people have died. The virus has spread to at least 20 countries.

Public-health authorities said that the woman was doing well and that her husband, who has some underlying health issues, was in stable condition.

They live together, which likely explains how the man caught the virus, since it can spread when someone is in close contact with a sick person.

Lab tests have confirmed four other cases of the virus in the US, all in people who had recently traveled in China. Two cases have been recorded in California, and one each in Arizona and Washington.

One of the best ways to protect yourself from this or any virus is to stay at least six feet from people who are sick and to wash your hands well, with warm water and soap. The CDC is not recommending that people wear face masks, since health experts have said they are not a very effective way to prevent the spread of this virus.

“The best things that you can do are the things that we generally recommend at this time of year to prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” Messonnier said. “Wash your hands, cover your cough, take care of yourself, and keep alert to the information that we’re providing.”

If you or someone you know has traveled in China in the past two weeks, watch vigilantly for signs of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.