Officials in Washington state say a man has died of COVID-19, the first such death in the United States.

The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family and is a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.

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Most COVID-19 infections result in mild symptoms, including coughing and fever, though some can become more serious and lead to pneumonia. Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are especially vulnerable.

Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.