First American Dies of Coronavirus in China as Death Toll Rises Above 700
As of Feb. 8, the national death toll rose to 722 and the total number of confirmed cases reached 34,546
A U.S. citizen who was diagnosed with the coronavirus died in Wuhan, China — where the mysterious respiratory illness began — in what was reported to be the first American death from the disease.
According to the New York Times, the United States Embassy in Beijing announced that the 60-year-old person, who has yet to be identified, died on Thursday at Jinyintan Hospital.
“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss,” a spokesman for the embassy told the outlet. “Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we have no further comment.”
On Saturday, a Japanese man with coronavirus symptoms also died in Wuhan, marking the first death of a Japanese citizen, the Washington Post reported.
As of Feb. 8, Chinese officials shared that in just 24 hours, 86 new deaths and 3,399 cases of the disease emerged — the largest daily jump the disease has on record, the Post noted.
According to the Times, with this new data, the national death toll rose to 722 and the total number of confirmed cases reached 34,546.
Most of the cases are in countries close to China, including Japan, South Korea, and Nepal, but France, Italy and the United Kingdom have all also confirmed cases of coronavirus. All but two of the deaths have occurred in mainland China.
A representative from the United States Embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.
The first cases of the illness — what is now known as 2019-nCoV, a form of coronavirus — began in Wuhan in late December. At first, the virus was contained to China, but Wuhan is a major transportation hub with hundreds of flights leaving and landing from the city of 11 million each day.
As of Feb. 7, there have been 12 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S.
The first case was found in Everett, Washington, just outside of Seattle, in a man who had recently returned from Wuhan. He was quickly quarantined, as were the next 11 cases — six in California, one within the Arizona State University community in Scottsdale, Arizona, one in Boston and two in Chicago. The most recent case was found in a person in Wisconsin.
The first U.S. cases all occurred in people who had recently traveled to Wuhan. The second Chicago case was different — it marked the first human to human transmission of coronavirus in the U.S. The initial case in Chicago was in a woman in her 60s who had recently traveled to Wuhan, and one week later, the CDC announced that her husband, also in his 60s had contracted the virus from her.
Both of the Chicago patients, along with the man in Seattle, have left the hospital and are recovering at home.
Coronavirus is a blanket term for several respiratory illnesses, ranging from the common cold to more severe viruses such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Symptoms typically include fever, cough, trouble breathing, headache and sore throat. For people who have severe cases, it can turn into pneumonia, SARS, kidney failure and death, according to the World Health Organization.
The risk of contracting coronavirus in America is still “low,” the Centers for Disease Control shared.
Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control, said Thursday that anyone who has recently traveled to China or been in close contact with someone who has should “be vigilant about symptoms” and contact their health care provider if they feel sick.