First US COVID-19 Death Reported

March 1, 2020

Health officials in King County, Washington, have confirmed a death linked to the novel coronavirus.

Health officials in King County, Washington, have confirmed the first US fatality linked to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The health department made the announcement on Saturday, February 29, 2020. The fatality was also confirmed in a press conference given by the White House.

During the press conference US officials announced that the patient was a man in his 50s with underlying comorbidities. At this time, health workers do not believe the patient traveled to a country with active transmission.

"The country as a whole still remains at low risk," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said during the press conference.

Currently, there are 66 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, 22 of which were not linked to repatriation. The remaining cases have occurred in individuals who were repatriated to the United States or had a history of travel to China.

Earlier this week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the first case of community spread had ocurred in California. This individual had not traveled to Wuhan, China, nor been in contact with any individuals with laboratory confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-19, the virus which causes COVID-19. On Friday, it was reported that the second case of community spread had been confirmed in Washington.

Travel advisories have been issued for several nations where active infection is underway. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended level 3 travel warnings for China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea. This warning recommends that Americans avoid nonessential travel to these countries.

"We want to lower the amount of travel to and from the most impacted areas," Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services said. "This is a basic containment strategy."

Currently, there are no approved therapies for the treatment of COVID-19. Earlier this week it was announced that the first clinical trial evaluating experimental treatments for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has launched in the United States. The randomized controlled trial will assess the activity of the antiviral remdesivir among hospitalized adults at the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC).

In a call with members of the media on Friday, February 14, 2020, the CDC said they will begin to test individuals with influenza-like-illness for the novel coronavirus. This will take place at public health labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, and New York City.

The CDC plans to expand this initiative to more cities in the coming weeks with the goal of eventually conducting national surveillance in order to guide response strategy.

Last week, Contagion®, a New Jersey based publication, spoke to Christina Tan, MD, MPH, state epidemiologist and assistant commissioner at the New Jersey Department of Health, about COVID-19.

"Preparedness is very important just in general to keep in the back of our minds, because we've seen over the last decade, the emergence of a variety of different emerging infections," Tan said, when asked about preparing for novel pathogens. "Whether it's COVID-19, whether it's SARS, a related novel coronavirus situation, MERS, again another related novel coronavirus that has emerged in the last decade... preparedness is always a very important issue that we should always be keeping in the front of our minds, whether you're in health care or in public health."

A press conference will be held by Washington state health officials at 4pm EST, during which more information about the fatality and other cases in the state will be shared.

For the most recent cases in the novel coronavirus outbreak, visit the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.