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The American man who returned from a trip to Wuhan, China with symptoms of the deadly coronavirus is being treated by a robot doctor in a specialist pathogens unit.

The man in his thirties was admitted to the unit in a hospital in Everett, Washington State, on Monday.

The man returned from Wuhan on January 15, two days before passenger screening began at three major airports in the United States. He is reported to have shown no symptoms when he first arrived in the US.

He began to feel unwell a few days after landing and, having read upon the symptoms of coronavirus online, drove himself to hospital at the weekend.

Medical personnel are on hand at many major airports to check arrivals from China

Rather than risking exposure to the mysterious virus, doctors are keeping the patient in a sealed room and treating him with a robot that is equipped with a video camera, a microphone and a stethoscope.

He’s the first ever patient at the special unit at 1330 Rockefeller Avenue, Everett. It was set up in response to the Ebola outbreak in 2017.

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The unit is one of 10 special contained wards for people with highly infectious diseases designated by the US Department of Health and Human Services.

As well as the medical robot, the unit has a special sealed 20ft-by-20ft isolation room where doctors can observe and treat the patient without risking infection.

The facility has never been used before

The patient, who is from Snohomish County, Washington, was delivered to the isolation unit in an Isopod, a special sealed stretcher, to minimise the risk of infection.

Dr George Diaz, section chief of infectious diseases at the hospital, operates the robot from a separate room.

He told the Guardian: “Every few weeks [we’re] doing drills and training like you would for an earthquake or fire drill or something like that.

“You’re always trying to maintain a state of readiness.”

China has now banned trains and planes from leaving Wuhan

Dr Diaz continued: “The wheels were greased enough that it wasn’t hard to get the process rolling to activate all the procedures that we had put in place.”

Speaking before the outbreak Susan Sjoberg, program manager for communicable disease epidemiology at the Spokane Regional Health District said: “Our hope is we’ll never have to use the unit.”

There are currently two isolation rooms in the unit but plans are in place to add a further 10 if more cases are identified in the US.



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