Health

Coronavirus Has Been Spreading In US Since January After Importation From China, CDC Says

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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Community transmission of coronavirus likely began in late January or early February after a single importation from China, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  announced in a report Friday.

The agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield, told reporters that the virus was spreading at these times in Washington state and other Pacific Northwest areas, nearly a month before community spread was first detected in late February, according to CNN.

- A police officer mans the entrance to a coronavirus (COVID-19) testing center in Hansen Dam Park on March 25, 2020 in Pacoima, California. - California, the most populous US state, has been one of the worst-hit during the pandemic. At least 51 people have died, with more than 2,500 cases, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

A police officer mans the entrance to a coronavirus (COVID-19) testing center in Hansen Dam Park on March 25, 2020 in Pacoima, California. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

The CDC used syndromic surveillance of emergency department records to trace the spread, along with coronavirus testing specimens and analysis of genetic material from the virus in early cases, according to the report. The syndromic surveillance was based on emergency department records from counties affected early by the pandemic and didn’t show an increase in cases involving coronavirus-like symptoms before February 28. (RELATED: CDC Says Coronavirus Not Easily Spread Through Contaminated Surfaces)

“CDC’s findings published today in the MMWR suggest that the virus that causes Covid-19 was imported into the United States from China in late January, early February, and this importation caused limited community spread in the northwestern United States,” Redfield said Friday according to CNN.

There were also importations of the virus to the U.S. from Europe. 

“The findings do show that in late February, early March, there were several importations of the virus from Europe to California and northeastern United States and possibly elsewhere,” Redfield said.

Palm trees stand behind a street art piece by artist Pony Wave depicting two people kissing while wearing face masks on Venice Beach on March 21, 2020 in Venice, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Palm trees stand behind a street art piece by artist Pony Wave depicting two people kissing while wearing face masks on Venice Beach on March 21, 2020 in Venice, California. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By late February into March, there were several importations of the virus from Europe into California, northeastern U.S., and possibly elsewhere.

There was no indication that the virus had been introduced earlier than these timeframes, in November or December of 2019, according to Dr. Jay Butler, deputy director for infectious diseases at the CDC, NBC News reported.

The CDC didn’t announce the first case of person-to-person transmission until January 30, when Redfield said at the time that the agency’s assessment found that the “immediate risk to the American public is low.”