Santa Clara County public health department leaders have reported a third case of coronavirus (COVID-19) within the county, the department announced Friday.
The third case involves an older woman who has chronic health conditions and was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, according to a department press release. It doesn't appear she was exposed to the virus through travel or had contact with a traveler or someone with the virus.
The woman's doctor had contacted the Public Health Department requesting she undergo a test for coronavirus. The department's laboratory was given specimens for testing on Thursday and received the results later that night, the press release states.
"The department has been working to identify contacts and understand the extent of exposures," according to the press release.
"This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear," Dr. Sara Cody, the county's health officer, said in a statement. "I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease."
The virus has sickened more than 80,000 people worldwide, mostly in Wuhan, China. The news comes nearly a month after the county's first two cases of coronavirus were made public.
The first case was reported on Jan. 31 and involved a man who traveled from China and has since recovered. In the second case, which was reported on Feb. 2, was a woman who came to the county from Wuhan on Jan. 23 to visit family. She has stayed at the home since her arrival, with the exception of two occasions when she sought outpatient medical care, public health staff said.
In the first two cases, the patients had mild symptoms and did not require hospitalization but they remained in quarantine, according to public health leaders. The three cases don't appear to be related to each other.
In light of the coronavirus outbreak, public health leaders have provided several recommendations the public can use as a precaution. People should wash their hands to avoid getting sick or spreading germs; cover their cough; stay home if they're sick; avoid people who are ill; and begin making plans if a family member becomes infected.
School officials can consider ways to deliver lessons through "tele-learning" and make extra efforts to clean surfaces, according to the Public Health Department. Businesses can consider substituting in-person meetings for video or telephone conferences, providing teleworking options, altering their absence policies and increase surface cleaning.
The county Public Health Department will hold a press conference to discuss the third case today at 4 p.m., which will be livestreamed from the Public Health Department Facebook page.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.