LocationAlhambra , CA
Nearly six weeks into the coronavirus outbreak, the first death in the United States has occurred. The patient, a resident of Washington state, was a man in his 50s who had pre-existing health issues. The person had not recently traveled to Asia and it was not immediately clear how he had contracted the virus.
In Washington state there have been four new reported cases, not including the death, and two other new cases were reported in Santa Clara, California. All but one of those cases had no recent travel history to Asia and are being termed “community spread” cases.
At present, there are 72 confirmed or presumptive positive cases in the United States, according to the CDC. Of the 72 cases, 32 are in California. Forty seven of the U.S. cases are evacuees from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan. A presumptive positive case has tested positive by a public health laboratory and is pending confirmatory testing at the CDC.
There is still just one in Los Angeles County, a traveler to LAX who contacted health authorities on arrival and was put under quarantine. There are still no confirmed cases in the San Gabriel Valley. However, the CDC is stepping up testing in key at risk areas in the U.S. and the LA County Health Officials cautioned that new cases may emerge.
“It is likely we will eventually see more cases of the novel coronavirus, in the midst of continuing to see other respiratory illnesses, like the flu,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Respiratory infections predominantly spread when people are sick with fever or cough and are in contact with others.”
“Everyone should stay at home when they’re sick,” Ferrer added. “This requires our employers and schools to be flexible when staff and students are sick and need to stay home.”
Health officials have stressed personal hygiene including frequent hand washing as a a key preventive measure in staying well.
Worldwide there are 87,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 80,000 of those cases reported in China. South Korea has the largest number of confirmed cases outside China with 3,736 according to the New York Times. Iran has 987 cases.
On Saturday, President Trump confirmed the death in the state of Washington and the U.S. issued its highest-level travel advisory against travel to Italy, which has the largest concentration of the disease in Europe, and South Korea. The U.S. also banned all travel to Iran and stepped up screening of travelers arriving from Italy and South Korea.
While the discovery of cases in the United States with no seeming link to Asian travel heightened the level of concern for health officials many sought to place perspective on the situation noting that most cases at this point are akin to more common strains of flu and relatively mild and manageable.
On Saturday, the Washington Post ran an op-ed piece by an American on the Diamond Princess cruise ship who came down with the virus. The writer said that for him the virus was far less problematic than a case of bronchitis he had some years ago.
Health officials noted that those most at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus are, at this point, older people with lowered immunity due to pre-existing conditions including diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory illnesses.
Symptoms, which mirror in some ways that of more common colds or the flu, include couching, shortness of breath and, possibly, fever. Severe cases of the virus may lead to pneumonia and, with it, a higher risk of mortality.
On Friday, the New England Journal of Medicine wrote that the coronavirus could be no worse than the common flu adding that the fatality rate among cases is less than 2% and could actually be lower than 1%. There have also been no cases reported of children under the age of 15.
For more general information on the coronavirus, go to the Centers for Disease Control’s summary page.
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