Mexican health officials announced the country’s first two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, saying the patients are from Mexico City and the northern state of Sinaloa.
Mexico’s assistant health secretary, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, said a second test is still pending for the Sinaloa case, adding that doctors are “treating this as confirmed,” according to The Associated Press.
There are now 54 countries with confirmed cases of the virus, the World Health Organization says.
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Both patients are medically stable and currently in isolation. Five “family contacts” of the first patient have also been placed in isolation as a precautionary measure, The AP reported. They had previously traveled to northern Italy, where there has been an outbreak of the virus, and returned to Mexico about a week ago.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador tried to calm global fears by characterizing the virus as less harmful than the flu, saying: “I repeat, according to the available information, it is not something terrible, fatal… There shouldn’t be any yellow journalism, or exaggerations, to cause a mass psychosis of fear, of terror.”
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U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar urged caution when he spoke to Fox News on Friday, but also claimed most Americans are unlikely to see a major change in their daily lives.
“We have been very transparent from day one that the risk to Americans at the present time is low, that that could change rapidly and that we must be prepared,” he said on “Bill Hemmer Reports.”
“That’s been our message throughout, and that we think we’ll see more cases in the United States,” he continued. “We’re not downplaying. We think the American people can be leveled with.”
“We, your government are taking this seriously, we are working with Congress, we are preparing across the federal, state and local levels, but for the everyday American, the risk to them is low and it does not result in a change to their daily lifestyle right now,” Azar added. “But that can change, and we want to make sure we’re transparent about that.”
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As of Friday, more than 83,000 people have been sickened by the coronavirus worldwide, and 2,861 have died. Most of the infections, however, have been in mainland China.
Fox News’ Joshua Nelson contributed to this report.