The first case of coronavirus where the origin of the disease is unknown has been confirmed in the United States, officials revealed Wednesday.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the person, a resident in Northern California, had not recently returned from a foreign country, and had not been in contact with another confirmed case.
The U.S. has taken extreme precautions to ensure that anyone traveling back from China has been quarantined in order to limit the spread of the disease.
Questions are now being asked over how the disease could have infected the individual with fears of it spreading locally becoming real.
Workers spray disinfectant as a precaution against COVID-19 at Saemaeul traditional market in Seoul, South Korea, 26 February 2020
A statement from CDC confirmed the first possible instance of 'community spread' in the US Wednesday evening.
'At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown. It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States. Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown,' the statement said.
The CDC did not rule out that the patient may have been in contact with a case that is yet to be confirmed.
'It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected,' the statement said.
'This case was detected through the U.S. public health system — picked up by astute clinicians. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States to 15.'
Officials are now tracing the infected individual's contacts to see how they may have been infected and if any other individuals may be at risk.
'It is a confirmed case. There is one in Northern California,' CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told The Sacramento Bee just before 4 p.m. Wednesday.
President Donald Trump announced Vice-President Mike Pence will be in charge of the nation's response to the disease, and that the U.S. was willing to spend 'spend whatever's appropriate' to deal with the outbreak. It comes as a new case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the Untied States, with officials unsure of how it has been contracted.
Pauley declined to elaborate on the details.
It is not yet known where in Northern California the case was discovered and the sufferer has not been identified.
Coronavirus cases on US soil have now risen to 60 with the addition of this case together with two more Diamond Princess cruise evacuees on Wednesday.
Before news of the unknown origin case broke, only two cases of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus had been confirmed in the US.
However, CDC officials had previously warned that it was no longer a matter of 'if' but 'when' the virus would be active in US communities.
The shock news that the disease is spreading came as President Donald Trump announced Vice-President Mike Pence will be in charge of the nation's response to the disease at a White House press conference Wednesday night.
He also declared the U.S. would spend 'whatever' it takes to beat coronavirus.
'We're very, very ready for this, for anything,' even if it's 'a breakout of larger proportions.'
'Every aspect of our society should be prepared. I think schools should get ready - just in case,' he added later.
The CDC confirmed the positive test results of an additional six cruise evacuees Wednesday, including four that had already been announced by local health departments.
At least five of the new patients were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship last week. They were then transported to three different quarantine sites: military bases in California and Texas and the National Quarantine Unit in Nebraska.
Global cases have now surged past 81,000, with well over 2,700 deaths - though the vast majority of fatalities have still occurred in China, where the outbreak began.
The announcement comes after CDC officials warned Americans to prepare for the infection to spread, despite President Trump's reassurances that the virus is 'under control' in the US.
The CDC's point person on the coronavirus outbreak, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Dr Nancy Messonnier advised parents to talk to their kids' schools about 'teleschooling' in the event the event of quarantines or class cancellations amid an outbreak.
She's already called her own children's schools.
'I told my children that they are not at risk now, but we as a family need to prepare for significant disruption in our lives,' Dr Messonnier told reporters in a Tuesday press briefing.
This is a developing story