Delta Air Lines and Hawaiian Airlines are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Japanese health officials to trace the path of a couple from Nagoya, Japan, who were diagnosed with coronavirus after returning from Hawaii.
Hawaiian state health officials say the couple, who are in their 60s, were in Hawaii from Jan. 28 to Feb. 7 and tested positive after being hospitalized in Japan.
The man, who was diagnosed before his wife, flew on Hawaiian Airlines flight HA265 from Kahului, Hawaii, to Honolulu on Feb. 3, in addition to flying home on Delta flight 611 from Honolulu to Nagoya on Feb. 6 with his wife.
Delta spokesperson Adrian Gee told USA TODAY, “We are aware of reports that two customers who are being treated for novel coronavirus (2019-nCOV) recently traveled together between Honolulu and Nagoya and we are communicating with the appropriate public health officials, including U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local Japanese authorities.”
Hawaiian spokesman Alex Da Silva told USA TODAY, “On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked us for information regarding HA265 from Kahului to Honolulu on Feb. 3, 2020, which transported a Japanese visitor who had since become ill and, upon his return to Japan on another carrier later in the week, was diagnosed with COVID-19.”
He added that the airline was working with public health officials to notify passengers and had already contacted employees who worked that flight.
Hawaii’s state health director, Bruce Anderson, said Friday that the couple was staying at Hilton Grand Vacations’ Grand Waikikian on Oahu when the man began exhibiting symptoms on Feb. 3. He did not seek medical care at that time but was hospitalized upon his return to Japan and initially diagnosed with pneumonia before testing positive for coronavirus.
Hawaii’s Department of Heath was later notified that the wife had been hospitalized, spokeswoman Janice Okubo told Hawaiian Public Radio. The Honolulu Star Advertiser and The New York Times and reported that she was diagnosed with the virus on Saturday.
State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said officials believe the man was infected either while still in Japan or on the flight to Hawaii because he developed symptoms approximately five days after his arrival. That timeline aligns with the CDC’s current theory about the virus’ incubation period.
“Our focus at this point is to try and understand who potentially this person may have had close, prolonged contact,” Park said, noting that that officials are focusing on the man’s path while on Oahu since that is where he became symptomatic.
“Following the stay of a guest who was later diagnosed with COVID-19, the Grand Waikikian has implemented all recommendations of public health authorities,” HIlton Grand Vacations Corporate Communications Director Lauren George told USA TODAY. “While the Grand Waikikian remains open as usual, we are also working with all current and future guests at the Grand Waikikian to ensure their comfort and safety.”
The news of Hilton’s involvement comes just a few days after the company announced it was temporarily closing 150 hotels in China, which translates to about 33,000 rooms.
Hawaiian officials say there are still no confirmed cases of the virus in the state. According to the CDC, the United States has 15 cases in seven states: Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington State and Wisconsin.
In Illinois, one patient who returned from the disease’s epicenter in Wuhan, China, on Jan. 13 was found to have passed the virus to her husband, who did not make the trip, making him the first U.S. case of person-to-person transmission.
To date, Japan has had 66 confirmed coronavirus cases and one death. The virus has affected more than 71,000 people worldwide and killed 1,775 people as of Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins data.
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Contributing: David Oliver, USA TODAY; Associated Press