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California patient contracts novel coronavirus of unknown origin

For the first time, a US patient has contracted novel coronavirus with no clue as to where it came from.

The California patient didn’t travel anywhere known to have the virus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. And the patient wasn’t exposed to anyone known to be infected.

That means this could be the first US case of “community spread” of the virus.




The Solano County resident was admitted to UC Davis Medical Center last week but wasn’t tested until Sunday for coronavirus, according to a letter sent Wednesday to UC Davis staff. That’s because the patient “did not fit the existing CDC criteria” for such testing, the letter said.

This case is significant, Dr. Dean Blumberg, an infectious disease specialist at UC Davis Medical Center said.

“That suggests that the virus is out there in the community, and that means pretty much that everybody’s at risk,” he said. “We don’t know who might be carrying it. We don’t know who we can get it from.”



While it’s not clear who the patient got the virus from, “that other person probably exposed other people,” Blumberg said.

“And you have to realize that this virus is so new, that none of us have any immunity to it. So, anybody who’s exposed is at high risk of getting infected with this.”

The patient is one of 60 confirmed cases of the virus in the US, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Wednesday. Forty-two cases are former passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the site of a recent virus outbreak. Most of the other 15 were travelers coming back from China or their spouses. Three others were repatriated from China.

How the California patient was exposed to the virus is still unknown, the CDC said. The agency has not yet ruled out that the patient was exposed to a returned traveler who was infected but didn’t know it, it said.

The patient was transferred February 19 to the medical center from another Northern California hospital with a suspected viral infection. UC Davis requested testing for novel coronavirus by the CDC because, the UC Davis letter says, neither the Sacramento County nor the California Department of Public Health are conducting testing.

“Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered,” the letter says. “UC Davis Health does not control the testing process.

The CDC ordered testing on Sunday and results came back positive Wednesday, the letter says.

“This is not the first COVID-19 patient we have treated, and because of the precautions we have had in place since this patient’s arrival, we believe there has been minimal potential for exposure here at UC Davis Medical Center,” the center said.




In the letter, the medical center asked a small number of employees to stay at home and monitor their temperature.


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