COVID-19 in the US, suspected to have hit as early as January

Mistaken as flu, health officials got no idea it was part of the first cases of COVID-19 in the US.

Tracing back earlier cases of COVID-19 in the US

As early as January, this was the estimate of health officials in California, where the early cases of COVID-19 in the US took place. Nobody knew about COVID-19 back then, health workers thought it was just a case of the flu.

On February 6, a 57-year-old female died from a suspected case of the influenza virus. There was no news about cases of COVID-19 in the US at that time; therefore, no speculations were made about her death aside from the flu-like symptoms.

On February 17, a 69-year-old male also died from flu-like symptoms that attributed the cause of death to influenza. On March 6, a 70-year-old male also died from similar symptoms.

According to the county health officer in Santa Clara:

The county was under a bad season of the flu virus, which is why medical reports lead to the influenza virus.
Sara Cody

A judgment call, out of curiosity

Luckily, the medical examiners got a bit curious about the flu-like deaths in the county that they took tissue samples of the deceased, and sent it out to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for sampling.

The first reported death due to COVID-19 in the US was believed to be on February  26, male in his 30s with travel history from Wuhan, China.

CDC guidelines on testing patients for COVID-19 include travel history from countries affected by the virus. When the CDC checked on the samples taken from the three deaths in Santa Clara, it all turned out to be positive.

All three have no history of travel from any of the affected areas of the virus, which indicates, it is a form of local transmission and probably have been circulating in the county as early as January.

Mass testing of more than 3,000 volunteers in Santa Clara County revealed a huge discrepancy in estimated figures of positive cases from the actual on-site results.


Featured image by ABC7