Horrifying way first US virus victim died
The first person who died from the coronavirus in the US passed from a ruptured heart caused by her body's effort to defeat the virus, according to her autopsy.
Patricia Dowd, a 57-year-old from California, died on February 6 - far earlier than the February 29 death in Washington state that officials believed was the first COVID-19 death in the country.
Ms Dowd died from what seemed to be a heart attack, but officials now say she had coronavirus.
A pathologist who saw her autopsy told the news outlet it looks like her body pushed and struggled hard against the coronavirus - so hard that it ruptured a valve in her heart.
Dr Judy Melinek told The Mercury News that it showed the heart "muscle was infected, that's what caused her heart to rupture."
Melinek said Dowd's heart was a normal size and weight - and added that heart ruptures like Dowd's usually only happen to people with bad cholesterol.
"There's an indication the heart was weakened," the pathologist said.
"The immune system was attacking the virus and in attacking the virus it damaged the heart and then the heart basically burst."
An autopsy of Ms Dowd's body was performed after her husband, who said the 57-year-old had good exercise habits and generally good health, requested it.
The woman's brother, Ricardo Cabello, said: "She was in shape. She did spin class. She was always doing some kind of aerobics."
Ms Dowd worked as a manager at a semiconductor company, and became sick in late January with flu-like symptoms.
She appeared to recover and was working from home on the day she died.
Local officials in the San Francisco Bay Area didn't issue stay-at-home orders until roughly six weeks after Ms Dowd's death.
Dr Sara Cody, a health official in Santa Clara County, said on Wednesday: "If we had understood then that people were already dying … we probably would have acted earlier than we did."
Dr Cody said that Ms Dowd's death, and the deaths of two others on February 17 and March 6, show the virus was spreading on the West Coast earlier than officials thought.
All three of their deaths appear to have stemmed from community transmission of the virus, the health official said.
"If we had had widespread testing earlier and we were able to document the level of transmission in the county, if we had understood then people were already dying, yes, we probably would have acted earlier than we did, which would have meant more time at home," Cody said.
The first coronavirus death reported publicly in Santa Clara County was on March 9.
After news of Dowd's coronavirus death, Governor of California Gavin Newsom said he directed coroners through California to take another look at deaths as far back as December to see when the coronavirus actually started hitting the state.
This article originally appeared in The Sun and was reproduced with permission
Originally published as Horrifying way first US virus victim died