The first instance of the coronavirus being spread from American to American may have been discovered in California. According to the CDC, a man has tested positive for the virus who never traveled outside of the United States.
“At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown. It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States,” the CDC said in a statement. “Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected.”
The individual is a resident of Solano County and is receiving medical care in Sacramento County, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The spread of the coronavirus from person to person is apparently even easier than spreading the flu. And no one really knows if the disease can be passed on from asymptomatic carriers — that is, people who show no symptoms.
“It’s the first signal that we could be having silent transmission in the community,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law. “It probably means there are many more cases out there, and it probably means this individual has infected others, and now it’s a race to try to find out who that person has infected.”
The problem now is trying to quarantine everyone this man has come in contact with. This is a huge challenge given the patient is apparently very ill and may not be able to help much until he recovers.
The patient arrived at UC Davis Medical Center from another hospital Feb. 19 and “had already been intubated, was on a ventilator, and given droplet protection orders because of an undiagnosed and suspected viral condition,” according to the email UC Davis officials.
The staff at UC Davis requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, but because the patient didn’t fit the CDC’s existing criteria for the virus, a test wasn’t immediately administered, according to the email. The CDC then ordered the test Sunday, and results were announced Wednesday. Hospital administrators reportedly said in the email that despite these issues, there has been minimal exposure at the hospital because of safety protocols they have in place.
Despite the CDC’s gloom-and-doom forecast for the spread of the virus, there is still a chance that a large-scale epidemic can be avoided. The coronavirus hit the U.S. later than almost anywhere else, giving hospitals time to prepare. The CDC and state health agencies have also had time to dust off their preparedness plans and begin implementation. And the number of cases is small enough that there’s still time to quarantine most of those exposed to the disease.
And don’t believe anything you read about the government being “unprepared.” The relevant agencies have been busy stockpiling supplies and working overtime to find the best treatments and even a vaccine, although that’s several months away. They are preparing to the best of their abilities within the confines of a budget. Additional funding is on the way to take care of that.
The way to fight the panic is by using reason and preparing properly. Those of us at serious risk — the old, the sick, those with compromised immune systems — should take the same precautions you might make for avoiding the flu.
And try not to watch TV news programs.