First COVID-19 Death Was By Heart Attack – SAN FRANCISCO — A Santa Clara County woman who is the earliest recorded death from Covid-19 in the United States died of a massive heart attack, according to an autopsy conducted by the county’s medical examiner and obtained by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The 57-year-old woman, who died Feb. 6, had evidence of the coronavirus infection in her heart, trachea, lungs and intestines, according to an autopsy report posted Saturday by the Chronicle that was completed Feb. 7, but not signed until April 23.
County officials announced the death earlier this week, making it the first known death in the country associated with the virus and indicating Covid-19 was likely circulating earlier in the country than previously thought. The death came three weeks before Washington state reported its Feb. 28 death, which until this week was considered the nation’s first.
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The woman had reported flu-like symptoms in the days leading up to her death, the autopsy says. She was mildly obese and had a mildly enlarged heart, according to the autopsy, but had no coronary heart disease or clotting that would have caused a heart attack.
The autopsy found that blood had collected in the sac around her heart, leading to pressure on the heart that caused it to rupture.
Santa Clara County health officials did not respond Saturday afternoon to a request for comment.
As the world continues to fight the coronavirus pandemic, a message from health officials has been consistent and clear: stay home.
Yet in the case of a life-threatening medical emergency such as heart attack or stroke, the American Heart Association, the American College of Emergency Physicians and several other medical groups are urging people to still call 911 and go to the hospital. In those emergencies, according to doctors, it’s OK to leave home.
In a joint statement on Wednesday, the eight medical groups noted concerns that some people with symptoms of heart attack, stroke and cardiac arrest are avoiding the hospital due to coronavirus fears. But they said doing so could be deadly.
“What we’ve seen over the course of the last six to eight weeks is that there are decreasing numbers of heart attacks and strokes showing up at US hospitals.
That has also been reported in other places around the globe that have experienced Covid-19 epidemic,” said Dr. Robert Harrington, interventional cardiologist and president of the American Heart Association, who was among the authors of the joint statement.
The statement described that hospitals are following protocols to sanitize facilities and keep Covid-19 patients away from other patients.