Second coronavirus death in US and experts think it's been going round for weeks

A second person has died from the coronavirus in the United States, authorities have said.

The victim, a man in his 70s, died on Saturday in Washington state as researchers said the Covid-19 virus may have been circulating in the Seattle area for weeks. The death follows that of a man in his 50s, with authorities saying both had underlying health conditions and were being treated at a hospital in Kirkland, Washington.

Authorities in the Seattle area said two more people had been diagnosed with the Covid-19 virus, both men in their 60s who were in critical condition, and two healthcare workers in California were also diagnosed. Elsewhere, authorities announced a third case in Illinois and the first cases in New York state as worried Americans swarmed stores to stock up on basic goods such as bottled water, canned foods and toilet paper.

As the fallout continued, US Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar sought to reassure the American public that the federal government is working to make sure state and local authorities are able to test for the virus. Both said during a round of TV talk show appearances on Sunday that thousands more testing kits had been distributed to state and local officials, with thousands more to come.

Mr Azar said: ‘They should know we have the best public health system in the world looking out for them.’

He added that additional cases will be reported and the overall risk to Americans is low.

As Americans prepared, researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre and the University of Washington said they had evidence the virus may have been circulating in the state for up to six weeks undetected.

This could mean there are hundreds of undiagnosed cases in the area.

They posted their research online but it was not published in a scientific journal or reviewed by other scientists.

Trevor Bedford, an associate professor who announced the preliminary findings on the virus in Washington state, said on Twitter on Saturday that genetic similarities between the state’s first case on January 20 and a case announced on Friday indicated the newer case may have descended from the earlier one.

The January 20 case was the first known case in the US ad Mr Bedford said: ‘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.’

The United States is considering shutting the US-Mexico border to control the spread, President Donald Trump said. Washington announced new limits on travellers who have visited Iran and recommended against travel to hard-hit areas of Italy and South Korea.

There are now more than 80,000 cases of Covid-19 worldwide and about 3,000 deaths.

What is the coronavirus and where did it start?

Coronaviruses are a family of diseases which include the common cold and the virus which caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which originated in China in 2002 and killed nearly 800 people around the world.

The virus causing concern now is a new strain which has made the jump from animals to people, named Covid-19.

It causes fever and a cough and can make it hard for people to breathe, causing viral pneumonia in severe cases.

Over 2,700 people worldwide have now died after contracting the illness.

How does it affect the lungs?

What are the symptoms of the virus?

The virus is more likely to progress into a severe illness or prove fatal among older patients or those with weakened immune systems.

As it is a viral illness, antibiotics will not help and there is no known cure or vaccine.

A scan shows the lungs of a patient with coronavirus (Picture: Reuters)

To avoid the illness, take usual hygiene precautions, such as using a tissue to cover coughs and sneezes, and making sure to wash your hands.

Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth after touching things like poles on public transport and avoid close contact with people suffering an acute respiratory infection.

You should also avoid unprotected contact with wild or farm animals.

So far, 13 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the UK.

Hundreds have been tested for it here, with most of the tests coming back negative.

How many people in the UK have it?

Is Coronavirus in the UK?

Where is Wuhan in China, where coronavirus started?

The virus originated in the city of Wuhan in China, where it is believed to have made the jump from animals to people at a seafood market.

Wuhan is the capital of China’s Hubei province, a landlocked province in central China.

It is built along the Yangtze river, and is around 500 miles west of Shanghai and 690 miles north of Hong Kong.

It is the largest and most populous city in central China, although estimates over its population vary.

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