US citizen dies of Wuhan virus in first confirmed non-Chinese fatality

A coronavirus-hit hospital in Wuhan, China.
A coronavirus-hit hospital in Wuhan, China.
Image: AP Photo/Dake Kang
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A US citizen has died from the novel coronavirus sweeping China, officials confirmed today (Feb. 8). Until now the only known deaths had been of Chinese citizens, whether in mainland China or abroad.

The American citizen, reported to be a 60-year-old woman with underlying health conditions, died on Feb. 6 in at the Jinyintian Hospital in the city of Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter. A US State Department spokesperson confirmed the death to Quartz, adding, “We are working around the clock to inform US travelers of the risks related to the novel coronavirus, to assist Americans in need, and to combat the spread of this outbreak.”

A Japanese national in Wuhan, a man in his 60s, is also believed to have died from the coronavirus, but the local hospital to which he was taken on Jan. 22 couldn’t confirm the cause of death.

China has reported over 720 deaths and more than 34,600 confirmed infections as of today, according to official releases (link in Chinese). The actual numbers could be much higher, and not every infection is reported as such in China.

The US and Japan, along with other countries, have implemented travel restrictions to limit the spread of the virus. The US now denies entry to any foreign nationals who have recently been to China. Japan has taken a more measured approach, earning praise from many Chinese, barring only foreigners who have been to Hubei province (where Wuhan is located) as well as holders of Chinese passports issued in Hubei.

Earlier this week, Scott Gottlieb, former head of the US Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC, “We will see more cases in the US and a lot will be undetected.” He added, however, that he did not expect an epidemic-level crisis in America.