A 35-year-old Seattle-area man identified as the nation’s first person with coronavirus developed pneumonia while in the hospital but has improved after getting antiviral medication, according to a new study.
A report published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine said the Snohomish County, Washington, man remained in the hospital as of Thursday and has no symptoms other than a cough that is improving.
The study, which describes the man’s symptoms and treatment but does not identify him, provides the most detailed look among the six reported cases of coronavirus in the U.S. On Thursday, the CDC and Illinois state health officials reported the first U.S. case of person-to-person spread of the illness – the husband of a Chicago woman who developed symptoms after visiting China.
Public health officials warn that there are likely to be more U.S. cases, including the possibility of limited person-to-person spread of the respiratory virus, but they emphasized the risk to the public remains low. The outbreak has infected nearly 10,000 people, mostly in China, and killed more than 200 there.
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The Washington state man traveled to Wuhan, China, to visit family. He told health officials that he did not visit the seafood market linked to a cluster of initial cases nor did he visit any health centers or come into contact with anyone with symptoms of the respiratory virus.
He returned home Jan. 15 on a flight to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. On Jan. 19, he checked into an urgent care clinic in Snohomish County complaining of four days of cough and fever. The man wore a mask in the clinic’s waiting room before he was examined. He was tested for coronavirus because of his travel to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, and sent home.
The following day, the CDC confirmed the man had coronavirus, and he was transported to Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington, where he was placed in an isolated unit.
The man’s vital signs were stable despite fever, cough and fatigue. However, chest X-rays taken on his fifth night in the hospital revealed signs of pneumonia, so doctors treated him with oxygen and other medications. The following day, X-rays revealed concerning markings in both of his lungs, “a finding consistent with atypical pneumonia,” commonly called walking pneumonia. Doctors administered an experimental, antiviral treatment called remdesivir.
Two days later, his condition improved other than an occasional dry cough and runny nose. He remained in the hospital and by Thursday “all symptoms have resolved with the exception of his cough, which is decreasing in severity,” the report said.
County and federal health officials tracked the man’s travel and contacted individuals who came in close contact with him. Some health care workers who treated him at the urgent care clinic were asked to stay home and monitor for symptoms, county health officials said.
So far, no one who came into contact with the man has been diagnosed with coronavirus.