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The new coronavirus may be spreading in parts of the Pacific Northwest, with California, Oregon, and Washington State reporting Friday that they have diagnosed cases with no travel history or known contact with another case.

Health officials in Santa Clara County reported a case of so-called community spread late Friday afternoon — the second in the northern part of the state in the past few days.

Later on Friday health officials in Oregon reported diagnosing a case of Covid-19 — the disease the virus causes — in a person from Washington County who had neither a history of travel to a country where the virus was circulating nor close contact with a confirmed case.

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And a teenager from Snohomish County, north of Seattle, was diagnosed with the disease, Washington State health authorities announced late Friday. This individual had not traveled outside the country nor had contact with a known Covid-19 case, they said.

These cases raise the specter that the virus may be spreading stealthily  in the Pacific Northwest region of the country.

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The discovery that the virus may be spreading in the country should not come as a surprise, said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy.

“It just tells us where there is testing, there are cases. … There is no such thing as a barrier containment to keep these out.”

Michael Osterholm. University of Minnesota

“It just tells us where there is testing, there are cases. And that’s what we have to understand,” Osterholm said. “There is no such thing as a barrier containment to keep these out. It’s going to happen. And what we have to do now is get on with how we’re going to deal with them.”

Health officials in Oregon said the infected individual there had spent time in a school in the Lake Oswego school district and may have exposed students and staff there. An investigation is underway and employees and families of children are being contacted, a press release from the state said.

The findings come as more and more states are starting to test for the virus. Many state and local laboratories have been unable to test for the virus until recent days, because of a problem with a test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As of Friday, the World Health Organization reported that there were more than 82,000 cases worldwide, from 46 countries. While most of the cases are still from China, cases elsewhere are on the rise.

The new California patient is a 65-year-old with chronic conditions who had not recently traveled outside the country and who had had no known contact with a confirmed case, health officials in Santa Clara County said.

“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County said. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”

Cody said individuals need to start practicing good hand hygiene and learn to stop touching their faces — people can infect themselves if they pick up viruses off a contaminated surface, then put a finger in their mouth or rub their eyes or nose.

Families should start working on emergency planning, and schools should make plans for dealing with high levels of absenteeism, she said, adding businesses should be thinking about allowing employees to telecommute, if needed.

Santa Clara is about 90 miles from Solano County, where earlier this week the first known case of a person who was infected in the community lives. The first case, a woman, is reportedly seriously ill and on a ventilator.

Cody said an infectious diseases physician contacted the health department Wednesday about a patient she was treating. The doctor was concerned the individual might have Covid-19 and wanted to submit a sample to be tested. That was done Thursday and an investigation into the individual’s possible source of infection began Thursday evening.

The United States has reported more than 60 cases at this point. The bulk of the cases, 47, are people who were evacuated from China or from the Diamond Princess Cruise ship. There have been 15 previous cases in people who contracted the virus overseas, and three cases where people were infected in the United States. Two of those were spouses of travelers infected abroad.

Problems with a coronavirus test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have meant that little testing for the new virus has been done in the U.S.

Worried infectious diseases experts have warned that the lack of apparent cases in the country cannot be taken as a sign the virus isn’t spreading, undetected in some places. And CDC officials have been trying to prepare the public for the likelihood that there will be some transmission of the virus in the United States.

 

  • To be honest, I’m quite worried this could get out of control. People haven’t adjusted their behavior one bit. There is no mass testing, so it’s presumably spreading widely and undetected. I’m actually fearing a Wuhan-scenario (Thanks CDC and FDA).

    • I agree. I bought 2 blocks of toilet paper after hearing P&G is seeing supply chain difficulties likely ahead. When we run out of hand sanitizer, a great alternative is rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle.

    • @Adam,
      Yes, it’s already “out of control” as you say. Yes, no mass testing, so way more people have it than you know. Do you understand? If you divide the number of deaths by the real number of cases which is unknown but much higher, then the mortality rate is very low. Do you understand? It is just a virus, like any other virus you get 2-3 times a year. You get sick, and get better a week later. 80% of cases are mild and some people have no symptoms. As most virus’s do, it is especially dangerous for elderly people or chronically ill, people who have preexisting health issues. Most healthy, young people are not going to die. It strangely doesn’t seem to affect children as much either. The cruise ship had 600 people test positive, and over 300 showed no symptoms. They don’t test for disease, they test for antibodies. This means the people might have already been sick and recovered and never knew they had cornonavirus. I live in Vietnam, right next door. We border China and thousands of people cross the border for work every day (usually) There is no mass hysteria here. 2 weeks ago, everybody at the gym was wearing a mask. Yesterday, I think I saw none. When you are around someone with a virus do you freak out? Run and hide? No. Sometimes we don’t catch it and sometimes we do. You can’t catch it if you’ve had it before. Our body develops immunity to virus’s we’ve had before. The thing with Covid-19 is that it’s highly contagious because NO human on this planet has any immunity to it. It’s new!! So it will spread quickly and to pretty much everybody. More so than the flu or a common cold. Normal people in good health will be fine. But need to watch out for elderly, people with health issues, and probably young children/infants. The panic is being manufactured. Everybody gets sick a few times a year, right? Those are all viruses (unless you happen to have a bacterial infection from something) Chill and deal with it. We don’t need to be locking people up or welding their doors shut from the outside as in communist, dictatorial, authoritarian China.

    • Scott, the virus can mutate, therefore the antibodies you have now can be useless later on.

      Google this and read this “People can get the coronavirus more than once, experts warn — recovering does not necessarily make you immune”

      You are making assumption when the expert cannot even make that kind of assumptions.

    • If it’s spreading widely and undetected then those people who have it can’t be seriously ill. We certainly should not be testing every person who sneezes or coughs. We need to save our resources (test kits, masks, etc) for those who truly need it. We also don’t want to overwhelm our health care providers and hospitals with panic by going to your dr if you have a simple cold. Remember we are still in the influenza season.

  • Well of course we don’t have an outbreak here in America. If the Government and the CDC isn’t testing anyone other than China travelers then it goes without saying NO OUTBREAK. No testing equates to no outbreak. Nothing to see here folks, move along.

  • If CDC does not have the means and skillset to develop test kit, they should just asked a Pharma company to do it for them while they take time to develop a good one.

    From this experience, it seems they are missing some skill sets.

    Their mistakes causes the coronavirus to spread further since there was very limited testing done.

    I can’t believe other countries can test more cases than the US. CDC needs to be revamp to make it more agile to changes.

    • It’s been stressful the last several years as short sighted politicians have repeatedly pushed to gut science and medical funding and government efforts to prepare for emergencies. I remember a friend working in the research community lamenting about having to repeatedly scale back and cancel studies as it became significantly more difficult to get grants. For a while he even considered leaving the country and going overseas to continue his research.

  • Others countries were able to test by the thousands, yet the CDC ineptitude cause us to have defective and limited test kit.

    Why not buy from other countries while waiting for the defective kits to be fix. Lets throw away pride and admit we can’t do it right and get some test kit from other coutries if that is what it takes to control this. Every day that one person is not tested could mean more people infected. You can then build a tree out of that. As time goes on, that tree expand up to a point one person as a source can yield several thousands of infected people after many generations of infection. Just look at Korea.

  • I had predicted back in Jan that the first spread will be California because there are a lot of flight coming from Asia landing in California.

    We lose so much time dealing with impeachment when we could have been focusing on this in January.

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