State Department urges Americans not to travel to China amid coronavirus outbreak

The State Department is urging Americans not to travel to China amid the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed 170 people in China and infected thousands worldwide.

The State Department announced Thursday evening that it had elevated its travel advisory to the highest level after the World Health Organization declared the viral outbreak an international public health emergency earlier Thursday.

The advisory instructs those in China to consider leaving by commercial travel, adding that the department "has requested that all non-essential U.S. government personnel defer travel to China in light of the novel coronavirus."

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The department warns in the advisory that travelers on commercial carriers may face restrictions with little to no notice, noting that several commercial carriers have limited or suspended travel to and from China. 

The State Department ordered all non-emergency U.S. government personnel and their family members to evacuate from Wuhan, the city at the center of the outbreak, last week. It said it has limited ability to provide services to U.S. citizens in the Hubei province where Wuhan is located. 

A majority of the 7,834 confirmed coronavirus cases are in China, and the disease has caused nearly 200 deaths thus far.

The coronavirus has spread to 18 other countries through 98 other cases, including incidents of human-to-human contraction in Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the U.S.

The U.S. reported its its sixth case but first human-to-human transmission Thursday in Chicago, with a patient contracting the virus from his spouse. 

Airlines like Delta, United and American Airlines have all been decreasing the number of flights between U.S. and China throughout the week. 

The first congressional hearing on the virus is scheduled for next week in a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee.