Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the nation’s first coronavirus case of unknown origin Wednesday in Northern California in the latest sign of the virus’ rapid spread.
“It is a confirmed case. There is one in Northern California,” CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told The Sacramento Bee just before 4 p.m. Wednesday.
In the Northern California case, “the individual is a resident of Solano County and is receiving medical care in Sacramento County. The individual had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual,” California Department of Public Health officials said in a news release Wednesday evening. State public health officials in Sacramento, citing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the case is the first person-to-person transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
Earlier cases of person-to-person transmission in Illinois and in San Benito County came “after close, prolonged interaction with a family member who returned from Wuhan, China, and had tested positive for COVID-19,” California Department of Public Health officials said in their Wednesday statement.
Dr. Sonia Angell, the state’s public health officer, called the outbreak an “evolving situation” that the state had been monitoring since the first cases in China late last year. but added “there is a lot we already know.”
“We have been anticipating the potential for such a case in the U.S., and given our close familial, social and business relationships with China, it is not unexpected that the first case in the U.S. would be in California,” Angell said in prepared remarks.
In such cases, public health officials trace the person’s contacts as they sleuth out where and how the person may have become infected and whether others have been exposed.
To date, public health officials worldwide have reported 2,770 deaths resulting from the coronavirus, 99 percent of them in mainland China. More than 81,300 cases of the illness have confirmed globally. All but 1,966 of those cases have been in China. The CDC has reported 60 cases in the United States, 45 of whom were U.S. citizens evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and from Wuhan, China.
The Washington Post originally reported the story, citing a person briefed on the case. President Donald Trump briefed reporters Wednesday at the White House on the federal response to the outbreak. Vice President Mike Pence will lead the government’s response to the virus, Trump said.
The Wednesday development comes a day after the CDC’s grim warning that a pandemic was nearing and that U.S. cities, communities and hospitals would have to ramp up for the virus’ spread.