Twenty-three Americans aboard cruise ship in Japan contract novel coronavirus

Written by on February 11, 2020

Carl Court/Getty Images(LONDON) — U.S. citizen Rebecca Frasure has been in the isolation ward of a Tokyo hospital since Friday.

Frasure and her husband were supposed to be enjoying themselves on a cruise around Asia, but she’s now among the 135 people aboard the Diamond Princess who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“I haven’t seen the outside of my room since I got here,” Frasure told ABC News in a telephone interview from her hospital room on Monday. “Just never think that something like this is going to happen when you’re just on vacation, living life. So, yeah, it was pretty shocking.”

The cruise ship has been quarantined at sea in the Japanese port of Yokohama since arriving there on Feb. 3, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. All those infected with the newly identified virus have been brought ashore for treatment, while the other passengers — including Frasure’s husband — remain confined to their rooms on board until the quarantine period ends.

“He’s holding up fine. You know, it’s difficult to be separated in this way,” Frasure said of her husband. “We’re just kind of taking it in stride and FaceTiming and such as we can.”

Princess Cruises, which operates the ship, announced Sunday that it is offering a full refund to all 2,666 guests on board. More than 400 passengers are from the United States, and at least 23 of them have been infected with the disease, according to a Princess Cruises spokesperson.

The new coronavirus causes symptoms similar to pneumonia ranging from mild, such as a slight cough, to more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no vaccine yet for the virus, nor any known effective therapeutics.

Frasure, who lives with her husband in Forest Grove, Oregon, said she feels “fine” apart from a slightly stuffy nose. She said the most severe symptoms she experienced from the virus were a mild fever and cough, both of which have since resolved.

“It doesn’t even feel like a cold,” she told ABC News. “To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t have known that there was anything wrong with me if they hadn’t tested me.”

“I don’t think that there’s any reason to spread panic,” she added. “I think that people just need to be aware and, you know, practice good hygiene.”

Panic has begun to set in elsewhere, as the death toll from the new coronavirus continues to rise. By Monday, China’s National Health Commission said it had received 40,171 reports of confirmed cases on the Chinese mainland and 908 deaths. An additional 64 infections have been confirmed in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and one death has been recorded in Hong Kong.

At least 307 additional people in 24 other countries have contracted the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. Only one patient has died outside of China — a 44-year-old man in the Philippines — bringing the global death toll to 910, which exceeds the number of people killed in the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak.

The WHO has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.

The epicenter is in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first cases of the new coronavirus were detected back in December. A 60-year-old American man who tested positive for the disease died at a Wuhan hospital last week, a U.S. Embassy spokesperson told ABC News. He’s the first U.S. citizen to die after being diagnosed with newly discovered virus.

A number of Americans have been evacuated from China in recent weeks, and the U.S. Department of State has identified dozens more who have requested help in evacuating from the Chinese province of Hubei, which includes Wuhan.

In the United States, 12 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin. The CDC has shipped newly approved coronavirus tests to labs across the country so states can begin their own diagnostic testing instead of shipping all samples to the agency’s headquarters in Atlanta.

The outbreak has caused several major U.S. airlines to suspend all flights to China, and American companies and government agencies have evacuated staff from the country. The U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 travel advisory for China on Jan. 30, warning people to avoid all travel to the country.

New York residents Milena Basso and Guy Cerullo are among the thousands of people aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined in Japan. The couple, who are on their honeymoon, said they’re trying to remain in good spirits but the increasing number of infected passengers is concerning.

“It’s just slowly creeping up,” Basso told ABC News in a telephone interview Monday. “It’s making us think, like us being on here, we’re just prone to this scenario to happen. That’s what’s really worrying us.”

Like all other passengers on board, the newlyweds are confined to their room. They are provided with three meals a day, free internet and access to counseling services.

Passengers are also allowed access to the ship’s upper deck during scheduled break times while wearing masks and gloves, but Basso and Cerullo said they don’t want to risk it. The couple have even stopped allowing crew members into their room to clean up.

“I’d rather go mentally crazy than catch the virus,” Basso told ABC News. “It’ll be worth it in the end for us to just get home, to be healthy and clean, and that’s it.”

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