Those in the frontlines in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak may have been infected after a woman from California tested positive for the novel coronavirus infection.
The woman, who is now critically ill with the coronavirus, was hospitalized for 11 days before her condition was revealed to healthcare workers, thereby raising the potential of broader community exposure to the dangerous respiratory disease.
The San Francisco Chronicle says officials have not been able to pinpoint the source of the woman’s infection.
Public health authorities are now scrambling to trace all contacts the woman may have had after becoming sick. However, they have refused to divulge the woman’s name, her exact address, where she went in her community before seeking medical attention, or who may be at risk of infection.
The staff members at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville who had contact with the woman – a Solano County resident – have been asked to stay at home and monitor themselves for any symptoms.
According to Bela Matyas, the public health officer of Solano County Health and Social Services, some staff members may be placed under quarantine.
Officials involved in the case, meanwhile, said the total number of possibly exposed health workers is still unknown, but that it should be less than 100.
In addition, the woman’s family is now under isolation and her co-workers identified and evaluated.
In a bid to allay the public’s fears, Matyas also added that the patient “was only potentially infectious for about a three-day window” and that the risk to the general public remains “very, very low.”
Meanwhile, UC Davis Medical Center, where the woman was brought after her condition worsened, said the case is now being investigated by the CDC as possibly the first patient to have received the infection from exposure in the community.
According to accounts by hospital staff, the patient brought herself to the 50-bed NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville on February 15, in order to be treated for what then seemed to be flu symptoms. The patient stayed in the hospital until her situation worsened, then she was transferred to UC Davis on the 19th to receive advanced care.
Upon her arrival at UC Davis, doctors, worried that she might be infected with COVID-19, asked that the woman be tested. The CDC, however, as revealed by an internal email from a UC Davis vice chancellor, disagreed.
According to the email, the CDC initially decided against testing the woman since she did not meet its initial criteria, which include “recent trips” to China or possible contact with someone infected with COVID-19.
The CDC only changed its criteria for testing Thursday, with the list now including people who are manifesting symptoms such as fever and severe respiratory illness without an alternative diagnosis – symptoms similar to the ones the woman had when she checked herself in for treatment.
In addition to the woman from Solano, the second case of COVID-19 with an unknown origin has been identified in Santa Clara County, Friday. According to health experts, this is indicative that the coronavirus is likely spreading through more than one community in the US.
According to The Washington Post, the second case involves a 65-year-old woman who had no known history of travel to any of the countries that have been hit the hardest by the disease. In the report, it is said that the woman has chronic health conditions and that she was originally hospitalized for a respiratory illness before being tested for the coronavirus on February 26.
Sara Cody, the Santa Clara County Health Officer, confirmed the news.
“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission, but the extent is still not clear,” Cody said in a press conference.
As of press time, 85,206 have been confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus, with 2,924 confirmed dead.