• The coronavirus has so far killed 170 people in China and infected nearly 8,000.
  • Swiss drugmaker Roche has unveiled first commercial test for coronavirus
  • Person-to-person transmission of the virus has also been reported in Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, has reported the first known case of person-to-person transmission of the deadly coronavirus in the U.S. on Thursday.

CDC officials said the patient is the husband of a woman from Chicago who was diagnosed with the virus after returning home from Wuhan, China, the city where the virus is believed to have originated.

However, Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, assured that the risk to the U.S. public "remains low." Officials noted that the husband is in his 60s and already has other underlying health issues when he was exposed to the virus.

CDC also said both infected spouses are “two people who were in close contact for an extended period of time,” suggesting the odds of contracting the virus through brief contact is slim.

Both husband and wife remain hospitalized and the man is stable. The woman is also said to be "doing well."

Health officials are trying to find other people who may have recently come into contact with the Chicago couple. But Redfield added the virus is not "spreading widely.”

For now, the CDC said it is not necessary for the general public to wear masks, however those who have recently returned from China should be vigilant and report any symptoms.

Thus far, the coronavirus has claimed at least 170 lives in China and infected almost 8,000 others.

In the U.S., six people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, two in California, one each in Arizona and Washington state, as well as the husband and wife in Chicago.

Person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus has also been reported in Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan.

Meanwhile, Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding (RHHBY) said it will introduce the first commercial test for the new coronavirus, a development that could speed up testing of patients. The new test can diagnose the disease in a couple of hours.

The test examines nucleic acids extracted from patients’ saliva or mucus, and compares them to sequences found in other coronavirus strains, including severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Speed is of the essence -- in some Chinese clinics and hospitals, so many people have come to be tested that most facilities cannot handle them all. Thereby many infected people don’t know they are carrying the virus and some are sent home, posing a danger to others.

The pharmaceutical giant it will accelerate production of high-tech machinery needed to use the tool.

“There is a bottleneck,” said Thomas Schinecker, head of Roche’s diagnostics division. “It’s really unknown how many people have the virus at the moment, and with our systems we can help to make testing much broader.”

Roche also cautioned that none of its existing medicines will help coronavirus patients and is not currently seeking to find a vaccine, said Bill Anderson, head of Roche’s pharma unit.

While demand for the test is very high in China and other countries, the fact that many of the worst infected cities in China are under quarantine presents logistical problems, said Roche CEO Severin Schwan. Roche, however, is working with Chinese authorities to get the tests sent as fast as possible, he added.

Also since Roche’s test hasn’t yet passed any regulatory hurdles, hospitals and clinics that use it will have to validate the results with other tests, Schinecker warned.

Roche posted overall sales of about $63.4 billion in 2019.

“In the big context, in terms of sales, it’s not super high,” Schinecker said. “But the impact you have on the health care system is very important.”