The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a report about the first coronavirus case in the U.S. of “unknown origin,” a fact that has raised the concern level among health officials.
“Unknown origin” means the patient had not traveled to China or been in contact with someone who has, or with anyone else with symptoms of the virus. The CDC is now investigating the case.
“It is a confirmed case. There is one in Northern California,” CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told The Sacramento Bee.
What’s troubling to health officials is the fact that the patient, now being treated in Sacramento, is not known to have traveled outside the country or come in contact with people who might have been exposed to the virus.
Health investigators are trying to learn how the patient was infected since, at the moment, it is the only U.S. case of unknown origin.
Only 15 known cases in the U.S.
The patient became the 15th person in the U.S. to be diagnosed with the virus, code-named COVID-19, that has killed nearly 3,000 people worldwide since breaking out in Wuhan, China at the end of December. All other infections in the U.S. came as a result of known contact with people who had traveled to China.
While confirmed infections in the U.S. are significantly lower than in other developed nations, a doctors’ group suggests that could be the result of a lack of testing. The group Doctors for Disaster Preparedness said last week that a shortage of testing kits has meant fewer people who could have the disease are getting tested.
"It is impossible to be sure that the virus is not spreading without more extensive testing," said Dr. Jane Orient, the group’s president.
She pointed out that testing for COVID-19 has been limited to "persons under suspicion" (PUIs), that is persons with fever, signs of a lower respiratory infection, exposure to a person known to have COVID-19, or travel to China within 14 days of symptom onset.
Vice President Pence in charge
At a news conference Wednesday evening President Trump announced Vice President Mike Pence would head the government’s COVID-19 response team, made up of agencies under the departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Transportation (DOT).
While telling Americans they should prepare for the worst, Trump offered assurances that U.S. health agencies had taken steps to mitigate risks.
"Because of all we've done, the risk to the American people remains very low," Trump said.
As for the virus’ effect on the stock market, Bankrate.com's senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick doesn’t expect the market’s steep sell-off this week to be long-lasting.
“For investors who truly have a longer time horizon for their money, including those saving for retirement years into the future, they should try to avoid the inclination to act on fear,” Hamrick said.
In the first three days of trading this week, the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost over 2,000 points.