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First case of 'community spread' of coronavirus found in California

Officials don't know how the patient got the virus

A person wearing a protective mask sits in a Bay Area Rapid Transit train car in San Francisco on Wednesday. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and the California Department of Public Health believe they have encountered the first case of "community spread" of coronavirus in the United States, according to KCRA-TV.

A patient in Solano County in Northern California tested positive for coronavirus, known more specifically as COVID-19, on Wednesday after doctors at the University of California-Davis Medical Center suspected that the patient's symptoms could indicate a coronavirus infection.

The patient has had no known contact with coronavirus either through travel or through close contact with a known infected person, according to CDPH. This is the 15th confirmed coronavirus case in the United States.

"This would be the first known instance of person-to-person transmission in the general public in the United States," CDPH said in a statement, according to KCRA. "Previously known instances of person-to-person transmission in the United States include one instance in Chicago, Illinois, and one in San Benito County, California. Both cases were after close, prolonged interaction with a family member who returned from Wuhan, China and had tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by novel coronavirus. As of today, including this case, California has had seven travel-related cases, one close contact case, and now one community transmission."

There was some delay between doctors' initial request to the CDC for a coronavirus test, however. California public health authorities are not prepared to administer coronavirus testing.

The patient was transferred from another hospital to UC-Davis on Feb. 19 at which point doctors suspected coronavirus and requested a test from the CDC. The test was administered on Sunday, and the result wasn't confirmed until Wednesday. UC-Davis issued a statement:

Upon admission, our team asked public health officials if this case could be COVID-19. We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor CDPH is doing testing for coronavirus at this time. Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process.

On Sunday, the CDC ordered COVID-19 testing of the patient and the patient was put on airborne precautions and strict contact precautions, because of our concerns about the patient's condition. Today the CDC confirmed the patient's test was positive.

UC-Davis doctors say they believe there has been "minimal potential for exposure" of others to coronavirus, and that there is currently only a low level of risk to the public.

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