American family stranded in Wuhan amid coronavirus outbreak

An American family is stranded in Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak — after they were unable to locate the daughter’s passport in time to make the U.S. government-chartered plane back to the states.

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department had chartered a plane to evacuate Americans from Wuhan. The plane, which departed Wednesday morning local time from Wuhan Tianhe International Airport with 195 U.S. passengers (most of whom are U.S. consulate staff members, according to WLEX News), has already landed at a military base in Riverside County, Calif., according to CNN and CBS News.

In a Wednesday press briefing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the passengers have been through multiple health screenings and will continue to be monitored at the military base for three days. But Priscilla Dickey and her daughter Hermione will not be among them. According to ABC10 News, in the scramble to evacuate, the family could not find Hermione’s passport and were not permitted on the flight as a result. 

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China coronavirus outbreak spreads across regions
A traveler wears a face mask as he sits in a waiting room at the Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A fourth person has died in an outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, authorities said Tuesday, as more places stepped up medical screening of travelers from the country as it enters its busiest travel period. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A girl wearing a face mask sits among suitcases at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Travelers wearing face masks gather at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Staff in biohazard suits hold a metal stretcher by the in-patient department of Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a novel coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Heightened precautions were being taken in China and elsewhere Tuesday as governments strove to control the outbreak of the coronavirus, which threatens to grow during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
Peatones con máscaras de protección en una zona comercial de Tokio, el jueves 16 de enero de 2020. (AP Foto/Eugene Hoshiko)
Health workers wear protective gear Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003, in Ward E3 of the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Hong Kong's New Territories, where 24 patients were quarantined after seven of its health workers developed flu-like symptoms, although none have tested positive for SARS. According to a hospital spokesperson five nurses and two health care assistants working in the hospital's Ward E3 developed symptoms such as coughs, sore throats and fevers on Friday. Hong Kong's health chief, Dr.Yeoh Eng-kiong, said that preliminary test results showed patients' samples did not contain coronavirus that causes SARS and researchers are trying to identify the cause of the illness. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Workers monitor screens for fever signs on passengers detected by infrared detectors at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk outside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 21: Chinese travellers wear protective masks as they arrive to board trains at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to nearly 300 in mainland China Tuesday as health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to six on Tuesday and cases have been reported in other parts of Asia including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
YICHANG, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Travelers wearing protective masks walk outside a railway station in Yichang in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. China has stepped up the measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus that has infected hundreds of people in China.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 21: A Chinese girl wears a protective mask as her mother pushes her on a suitcase to board a train at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to nearly 300 in mainland China Tuesday as health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to six on Tuesday and cases have been reported in other parts of Asia including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
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Hermione’s father and Priscilla’s ex-husband, James Dickey, who lives in Wuhan, told news outlets that family members faxed papers confirming the young girl’s identity and James finally located his daughter’s actual passport, but it was too little too late. The plane took off without them, and now the family is stranded in Wuhan, where the coronavirus has infected an estimated 6,000 people — surpassing the deadly SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 — and killed more than 130 individuals in China, according to Time.

There have been five cases reported in the U.S. so far, according to the Wednesday briefing by the CDC, with the first case in the nation involving a man in his 30s who was traveling from Wuhan, China, to his home in Washington. Health officials in Arkansas confirmed Wednesday that they are investigating a possible case.

“The number of cases is exploding,” Stanley Deresinski, MD, an infectious disease specialist with Stanford Health Care, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It looks like in terms of the rapidity of increase it’s greater than what was seen with SARS.”

Deresinski explains that “the estimated current reproductive rate is about 2.5,” meaning that every person who is infected with the Wuhan coronavirus “is expected to infect [another] 2.5 individuals.”

However, Deresinski says that the coronavirus doesn't appear to be “as lethal as SARS,” which killed 774 people, according to the CDC. “It looks like most of the fatalities are in the elderly and in individuals with co-morbidities — that is, existing illnesses,” making them more vulnerable to the virus.

For Priscilla Dickey and her daughter Hermione, it’s understandably scary to be stranded in Wuhan at the moment. “Certainly, if you’re among the population in Wuhan, I’d imagine there would be a significant risk,” says Deresinski.

He adds, “There’s no treatment. There's no vaccine. So the only way you can reduce that reproductive ratio is to isolate people.”

Deresinski says a major way the family can protect themselves is through “social distancing ... staying away from other people.” Beyond that, he recommends following good hygiene practices, such as washing hands with soap and water often and wearing a face mask if you’re going to come into contact with other people (though Deresinski notes that finding an N95 respirator is likely difficult to get a hold of right now).

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