Of the 86,500 cases confirmed globally, at least 2,976 have been fatal -- 2,870 of which were in China. The US has reached 71 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Several of those cases are believed to have been spread person-to-person with unknown origins, including the patient in Washington state who died, said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC.
The patient was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions, according to Dr. Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County, Washington.Officials warned last week that the virus would begin spreading in US communities.
"We expect we will see community spread in this country," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness."
But US officials have urged Americans not to panic.
"It's important to remember," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said, "for the vast majority of individuals who contract the novel coronavirus, they will experience mild to moderate symptoms, and their treatment will be to remain at home, treating their symptoms, the way they would a severe cold, or the flu."