Deadly coronavirus puts U.S. government on alert

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar says 'very rare' illness can spread human to human

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first U.S. case of the coronavirus on Tuesday, several governmental agencies kicked into action to ensure that the disease -- which has killed six people in China -- does not become an epidemic here.

Continue Reading Below

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Lou Dobbs on FOX Business'  "Lou Dobbs Tonight" Tuesday that the timing of this outbreak happens to fall during Chinese New Year, when many people are traveling to China.

"The Chinese have been transparent, working with us and the rest of the world community on this," Azar said on"We have been heavily engaged from the outset of this, and the CDC and I, working under President Trump's direction, have been taking the steps that one would take with an infectious disease outbreak of this kind."

FIRST CORONAVIRUS CASE CONFIRMED IN US: CDC

Azar told everyone the Chinese government has been "very transparent and productive." That cooperation helped them create a diagnostic test to confirm if someone is infected with what is officially known as the Wuhan Virus. It is named after central China's largest city where 41 cases were first reported.

Christian Drosten, director of the institute for virology of Berlin's Charite hospital stands next to a centrifuge during his coronavirus research in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Sohn)

"We'll be spreading that diagnostic around the country so that we're able to do rapid testing on-site, but the most important thing we need to do is get any individual with suspected symptoms, fever, respiratory illness, to see a physician, go to the hospital so they can be diagnosed to see if they, in fact, have this condition."

The new type of coronavirus, which can be spread from human to human, was reported here in Washington state. CDC officials said they don't expect it to be the last in the U.S.

CORONAVIRUS VACCINE COULD BE A YEAR AWAY: NIH

"We've educated our health care professionals, hospitals and doctors to be on the lookout for any symptoms so that a patient can be isolated and contained right away," Azar said.

People wear face masks as they ride an escalator at the Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Azar assured people it's still "very rare."

"While this is a potentially serious public health issue, it's one for which we have the playbook, and we will keep ratcheting up our controls, our multilayered approach as appropriate in close consultation with President Trump," Azar added.

CORONAVIRUS, FLU AND OTHER ILLNESSES: HOW TO STAY HEALTHY WHILE FLYING

Satish Pillai, right, a medical officer for the CDC, speaks at a news conference following the announcement that a man in Washington state is the first known person in the U.S. to catch a new type of coronavirus officials believe originated in China.

The patient, a male U.S. resident in his 30s, has been hospitalized, officials said. He is in good condition and poses little risk to the general public, they said. The man had traveled from China to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Jan. 15 and reached out to his health care provider on Jan. 19 after he developed symptoms.

"We've educated our health care professionals, hospitals and doctors to be on the lookout for any symptoms so that a patient can be isolated and contained right away."

- Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar

CDC officials have screened around 1,000 travelers at three U.S. airports: New York's JFK Airport, San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. The CDC is adding screenings at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

Azar believes these travel surveillance mechanisms are necessary to prevent the spreading of the illness.

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

The coronavirus has affected the global stock markets as well.

Major U.S. stock market indexes were lower Tuesday on fears that the virus could spread even further. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were all down about during midday trade.

FOX Business' Matthew Kazin, Jonathan Garber and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS