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A seemingly healthy woman’s sudden death is now the first known US coronavirus-related fatality, LA Times reports

This transmission electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19. isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in the lab. Credit: NIAID-RML

(CNN) — A seemingly healthy 57-year-old Bay Area woman who “suddenly died” in early February has now become the first known US death related to coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday.

Patricia Dowd, who worked as a manager for a semiconductor company, “exercised routinely, watched her diet and took no medication,” the newspaper reported.

Rick Cabello, Dowd’s older brother, told CNN she didn’t smoke and was in good health.

“She was an athlete in her high school days, she was always active,” Cabello said. Her sudden death was a shock to family members. They all believed it was a heart attack, Cabello said.

The report came after Santa Clara County announced Tuesday that tissue samples confirmed two people who had died in early February tested positive for coronavirus. One victim, who the county said died on February 6, was described as a 57-year-old woman while the other was a 67-year-old man who died on February 17. The county did not provide any more details.

In a Wednesday news conference, Santa Clara County Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sara Cody said neither case had recent travel history that would have exposed them to the virus, and officials are presuming both cases represent community transmission.

‘She had flu-like symptoms’

Before Dowd was found dead on February 6, “she had flu-like symptoms for a few days, then appeared to recover,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Five days before she died, Dowd called her brother to tell him she couldn’t make it to a family visit in Stockton, California.

“She wasn’t feeling well, which was very unusual for her,” Cabello said. “I remember her specifically saying ‘I’m not feeling well,'” he added.

The Los Angeles Times reported that she had cancelled plans to go a weekend funeral.

Dowd started working from home as her condition improved and had been in touch with a colleague around 8 a.m. on the day of her death. She was found dead about two hours later, according to the Los Angeles Times.

A traveler and ‘everybody’s rock’

Dowd was a frequent world traveler, her brother said.

A family member told the Los Angeles Times she had planned to travel to China later this year and went abroad “multiple times a year to different global locations.” The Los Angeles Times also reported that Dowd had a history of foreign travel, as did her co-workers at Lam Research.

Dowd was “hardworking, loyal, and caring,” Cabello told the Los Angeles Times.

“She was the energy person in her large network of friends,” her brother said. “She was everybody’s rock.”

In a tribute wall set up for Patricia Dowd by the Cusimano Family Colonial Mortuary, a coworker wrote, “I’ll always remember the kindness and generosity of her spirit. She was genuinely caring and had an amazing energy.”

As more deaths are investigated, more positives may come

Neither of the two victims who died in February had been tested for the virus at the time of their deaths because testing capacity was limited, Santa Clara County said in a news release Tuesday.

Tests were only available through the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and were restricted to people who had a known travel history and showed certain symptoms.

Both of the victims who passed away in February had flu-like symptoms before dying, county officials said.

“Because there was continued suspicion by the medical examiner that these deaths were caused by Covid-19, the medical examiner sent autopsy tissue to the CDC for definitive testing,” the coroner’s office said in a statement.

As the county investigates more deaths, it’s likely that more will be tied to the virus, officials said. And that adds to evidence that suggests the current case and death tallies across the country may be significant undercounts.

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How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronaviruses transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

KSL Coronavirus Q&A

Utah’s Coronavirus Information

UtahState Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line – 1-800-456-7707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States