State Department warns against travel to China amid coronavirus outbreak

There are nearly 9,700 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in China, with 213 deaths, Chinese health officials said.

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By Phil Helsel

The State Department on Thursday warned Americans not to travel to China amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has sickened thousands of people in the country.

The State Department also says in its "do not travel" advisory that "those currently in China should consider departing using commercial means."

It said nonessential U.S. government personnel should defer travel to China because of the outbreak.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

By the end of Thursday, there were 9,692 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in China, and 213 people had died.

Earlier this week, a plane evacuated 195 Americans from China. They are at a military base in Southern California for monitoring, and officials say they have shown no signs of the illness.

The virus has spread to 18 other countries, including the U.S. But the vast majority of confirmed cases are in China.

The State Department ordered the departure of all nonemergency U.S. personnel and their family members from Wuhan on Jan. 23, and on Wednesday, it authorized the departure of all nonemergency U.S. government employees and family members at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang.

The State Department said it was doing so out of an abundance of caution and because of disruptions in travel and the availability of health care in China.

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The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency.

Also Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a sixth person in the U.S. has been confirmed to have novel coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV.

The case, the first detected instance of person-to-person transmission in the U.S., involved the husband of a previously diagnosed woman. The two live together, and the woman had traveled to China in December to care for her father in Wuhan, officials said.

The five previously confirmed cases all involved people who had recently traveled to Wuhan, the CDC said.

"We understand that this may be concerning, but based on what we know now, our assessment remains that the immediate risk to the American public is low," Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said in a call with reporters earlier Thursday.