Two patients who tested positive for the novel coronavirus have died , the Florida Department of Health announced Friday night.
The cases mark the first US coronavirus deaths outside California and Washington .
Both of the deceased in Florida, including one patient in their 70s , had recently returned from international trips, officials said. Their destinations were not publicly disclosed.
Amid the American outbreak, people over 60 and those with severe chronic medical conditions are encouraged to "stay at home as much as possible," the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week.
Those who died in Florida were in Santa Rosa and Lee counties, officials said.
Meantime in Broward County, two new presumptive positive cases of the coronavirus were reported, Florida's health department announced.
What is Covid-19 – the illness that started in Wuhan?
It is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. Many of those initially infected either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of the Chinese city.
What are the symptoms this coronavirus causes?
The virus can cause pneumonia. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties. In severe cases there can be organ failure. As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system. Many of those who have died were already in poor health.
Is the virus being transmitted from one person to another?
China’s national health commission has confirmed human-to-human transmission, and there have been such transmissions elsewhere.
Coronavirus: How to protect yourself
Wash your hands:
Wash your hands with clean running water. Apply soap, lather your hands, including the back, between fingers, and under nails. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Rinse.
Cover your mouth and nose with tissue when your cough or sneeze
Throw tissue in bin and wash your hands. If you don't have a tissue to hand, cough or sneeze into your elbow rather than your hands.
Facemasks offer some protection
As they block liquid droplets. However, they do not block smaller aerosol particles that can pass through the material of the mask.
Seek early medical help by phone
If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, and share your travel history with healthcare providers.
If you have returned from an affected area in China, Iran, South Korea, or Italy in the last two weeks stays indoors and avoid contact with other people for 14 days. This means not going to work, school, or any other public areas.
If you have returned from an infected area and develop a high fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, or difficulty breathing, do not leave your home until you have been given advice by a doctor.
Why is this worse than normal influenza, and how worried are the experts?
We don’t yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we won’t know until more data comes in. The mortality rate is around 2% in the epicentre of the outbreak, Hubei province, and less than that elsewhere.
For comparison, seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about 400,000 deaths each year globally. Sars had a death rate of more than 10%. Another key unknown is how contagious the coronavirus is.
A crucial difference is that unlike flu, there is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, which means it is more difficult for vulnerable members of the population – elderly people or those with existing respiratory or immune problems – to protect themselves.
Hand-washing and avoiding other people if you feel unwell are important. One sensible step is to get the flu vaccine, which will reduce the burden on health services if the outbreak turns into a wider epidemic.
Is the outbreak a pandemic and should we panic?
No. A pandemic, in WHO terms, is “the worldwide spread of a disease”. The spread of the virus outside China is worrying but not an unexpected development. The WHO has declared the outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern.
The key issues are how transmissible this new coronavirus is between people, and what proportion become severely ill and end up in hospital. Often viruses that spread easily tend to have a milder impact. Generally, the coronavirus appears to be hitting older people hardest, with few cases in children.