By Marcus Kloeckner and Jennifer H. Svan | For updates and corrections, visit Stars and Stripes
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — A 32-year-old Kaiserslautern man has contracted the coronavirus and 17 others are in self-quarantine after being in contact with him, city health officials said Friday.
The patient recently returned from a trip to Iran, health officials for the city and Westpfalz Klinikum, a Kaiserslautern hospital, said Thursday night.
The hospital as a precaution has shut down all non-emergency services and plans to return to a normal schedule Tuesday, officials said.
Kaiserslautern is home to the largest U.S. military community overseas, where about 50,000 Americans live in the city and outlying villages. No cases of coronavirus have been reported among the U.S. population in the area, military officials said Friday.
German health officials believe the patient contracted the coronavirus in Iran, which has reported 22 related deaths and 141 confirmed cases, the World Health Organization said Thursday.
He arrived back at Frankfurt airport on Feb. 19 symptom-free and took a bus to Kaiserslautern that day.
On Wednesday, he went to the hospital with a fever, while shaking and coughing, officials said. The hospital tested for and confirmed the coronavirus Thursday.
The patient works in the mechanical engineering department at Technical University Kaiserslautern, the Wochenblatt newspaper reported.
Seventeen people with whom he was in close contact with in recent days are self-quarantined in their homes, officials said. They include 15 colleagues and the patient’s two roommates — a student at the university and a teacher at a vocational school in Landstuhl, officials said. They have been tested for the coronavirus and results were expected Friday or Saturday.
City employees will provide the 17 people food and water while checking whether they stay home, the Rheinpfalz newspaper reported.
The Westpfalz hospital also sees American patients and is keeping the military up to date on new developments, hospital spokesman Dennis Kolter said Friday.
The hospital’s clinics in Kirchheimbolanden, Rockenhausen and Kusel are continuing to see patients.
Military officials said they are tracking the coronavirus case in Kaiserslautern and added that the patient has no U.S. military affiliation.
“We do anticipate that it’s just a matter of time before we see cases of our own,” said Gino Mattorano, a spokesman for Regional Health Command Europe on Friday. “We have been expecting this, and we are prepared to respond appropriately.”
The commander of the 86th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Ramstein Air Base, Lt. Col. Tracy Bozung, a public health expert, was scheduled to answer questions about the virus on Ramstein’s Facebook page, from 4 to 5 p.m. Friday. As of early Friday afternoon, nearly 150 people had commented or posted questions to the page.
Germany is trying to contain the spread of the virus after 14 new cases were confirmed Thursday in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state’s health ministry reported.
Another case was confirmed in Heidelberg on Friday in a man who recently returned from a skiing holiday in South Tyrol, in northeast Italy, a region hit particularly hard by the virus.