The California woman who was the first known COVID-19 victim in the US died from a “burst” heart — when her own body turned against her as it tried to rid itself of the bug, according to a report.
Patricia Dowd, 57, was under such assault from the virus that a valve in her heart ruptured, causing her to die Feb. 6 at her San Jose home, the Mercury News reported.
“The immune system was attacking the virus and in attacking the virus it damaged the heart and then the heart basically burst,” said Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist who reviewed the autopsy report, according to the report.
Melinek said the autopsy showed that Dowd’s heart “muscle was infected, that’s what caused her heart to rupture.”
Dowd, a manager for a semiconductor company, was seemingly healthy before she came down in late January with flu-like symptoms, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Her family said she appeared to be on the mend and was corresponding from home with a colleague Feb. 6 before she was found dead, according to the newspaper.
Her death was initially believed to be a heart attack, but her husband was suspicious, citing her good exercise habits and health, the Mercury News reported.
He requested the autopsy, which revealed that the coronavirus had reached the state far earlier than previously known, according to reports.
Dowd was among three early deaths in Santa Clara County — the second on Feb. 17, and a third March 6 — believed to be from community transmission.
“None of these cases had a significant travel history,” Santa Clara County health officer Dr. Sara Cody said. “We presume that each of them represent community transmission and that there was some significant level of virus circulating in our community in early February … and who knows how much earlier.”