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Coronavirus May Have Spread in Washington State for Weeks

2nd Washington state man dies of COVID-19
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2020 3:53 AM CST
Updated Mar 2, 2020 6:43 AM CST

(Newser) – A second person in Washington state has died from COVID-19—and authorities fear there will be many more coronavirus cases in the region. Authorities say the man in his 70s died at the Evergreen Health Medical Center in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland on Sunday, the Seattle Times reports. A man in his 50s died in the same hospital Saturday, becoming the first person in the US to die from the coronavirus. Researchers believe the virus may have been circulating in the state for weeks, with hundreds of cases still possibly undetected, reports the Washington Post. Researchers say they carried out genetic sequencing of two virus samples—one from a man who had been to Wuhan, China, and on Jan. 20 was the first person in the US diagnosed with the coronavirus, and one from a patient diagnosed more than five weeks later.

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The virus samples were almost identical, which researcher Trevor Bedford at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center says has "enormous" implications. "I believe we’re facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China," he tweeted late Saturday. Authorities in Washington state said a total of seven new cases were detected Sunday, including the man who died. At least three of the patients are in critical condition, the AP reports. In California, two San Francisco-area health care workers who cared for a coronavirus patient have now also tested positive for COVID-19, authorities say. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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