By: Laura Peterjohn
MAIN IMAGE: Post-mortem testing has shown that people thought to have died of flu in California in February actually died of coronavirus, suggesting that the virus was present in the US weeks earlier than previously believed. SOURCE: Gustavo Fring, Pexels
California officials have confirmed that the coronavirus was likely to have caused the deaths of two people in the US state in February – suggesting that the disease was present in the US weeks earlier than previously thought.
Until now the first US death was thought to have occurred in Washington on February 29th.
But new tests show that coronavirus caused a death on February 6th – that of a woman who had developed flu-like symptoms in early January. Patricia Dowd, 57, had tested negative for the flu and the coroner was reportedly “baffled” by the death. In the last week, tissue samples from Dowd have tested positive for Coronavius.
Dowd had not traveled outside the country since November.
This news comes as cases worldwide are reported to have topped 2.6 million, with deaths exceeding 184,000. Some countries that had hoped to have already seen peak infection rates, such as Spain and Singapore, are reportedly seeing new growth. Spain’s daily rate of infection has been slowly climbing and on Tuesday it reported its highest number of new cases, and fatalities in a week. Singapore today reported more than 1,000 new infections for the fourth straight day.
In the US, Bloomberg reports, there have been more than 839,675 confirmed cases with 46,583 deaths.
However, the news of earlier deaths has prompted authorities to start re-evaluating those numbers and the timeline of the disease.
CNN reports that California governor, Gavin Newsom has begun instructing medical examiners from all 58 counties in California to research deaths that might have been COVID-related as far back as December
Newsom said the move was intended “to ultimately help guide a deeper understanding of when this pandemic really started to impact Californians directly”.
It is thought that a bad flu season may have meant that some deaths were misclassified.
In Indiana, officials are beginning to track possible cases from mid-February, while the first cases previously reported were in March.