A scientist in Washington State believes coronavirus may have been spreading for six weeks before it was detected, as the number of confirmed infections reached eight.
Two men in their 60s - both with underlying health conditions - were in critical condition Sunday. One was stable at Valley Medical Center in Renton, the other was at Virginia Mason.
After a man in his 40s was the first to die from the virus overnight Friday in a county hospital, Trevor Bedford of the University of Washington said the illness likely spread within the community as none of the people confirmed to be infected had recently traveled.
Bedford said a team at the Seattle Flu Study had compared the first reported case of COVID-19 in the United States to the second case, and found that it was on the same evolutionary tree.
Sharing a diagram, Bedford tweeted Saturday: 'This strongly suggests that there has been cryptic transmission in Washington State for the past 6 weeks.'
A new coronavirus study 'strongly suggests that there has been cryptic transmission in Washington State for the past 6 weeks,' a scientist has said. In three new cases confirmed near Seattle (above) the victims don't have a history of recent travel
Arrows on a diagram shows how coronavirus case WA2 stems from the same tree as WA1
Bedford posted on social media that case WA2 is likely to have come from case WA2 as they appear almost identical in make-up.
The academic also noted that they were discovered in the same area of Washington State, Snohomish County, as he put the probability value at 0.3. Anything less than 0.5 is statistically significant and effectively rules out the chance the findings are random.
'It's possible that this genetic similarity is a coincidence and these are separate introductions. However, I believe this is highly unlikely. The WA1 case had a variant at site 18060. This variant is only present in 2/59 viruses from China,' Bedford continued.
'I'd assess the p-value for this coincidence at 2/59=0.03 and so is statistically significant. Additionally, these two cases are geographically proximal, both residing in Snohomish County.
'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.'
Bedford said they will be working closely with Public Health Seattle and King County as well as the Washington Department of Health to fully investigate the outbreak.
The virus, immunity and evolution expert added that they hope to provide an update on the number of infections in Washington State soon.
Coronavirus wasn't detected in the country before January 19 and the initial cases were in Washington
A 'medically high-risk' male in his 50s died of coronavirus overnight Friday in Kirkland hospital EvergreenHealth
The best current estimation Bedford was able to provide was a few hundred.
On Saturday President Trump urged the public not to panic after the state had its first coronavirus death – a man in his 40s.
A 'medically high-risk' male in his 50s died of coronavirus overnight Friday in Kirkland hospital EvergreenHealth, just two miles from Life Care in Kirkland.
Two confirmed cases in Washington are connected to the long-term care home, Life Care.
A total of 25 staff and 27 residents of the nursing facility were showing symptoms of