The 36-year-old woman is “very seriously ill” and was in the Methodist Hospital in Omaha before she was taken to the unit via an ambulance, officials told local news outlets. The unit is located at the University of Nebraska Medical Center campus, and Associated Press photos showed officials in biohazard suits and masks transporting the woman inside an isolation pod into the ambulance.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts and health officials announced the unnamed woman is the first COVID-19 patient in the state, reported the Omaha World-Herald. Between Feb. 18 and Feb. 27, the woman was traveling in the UK with her father before she contracted the virus, said a state infectious disease expert, Dr. Robert Penn, in the report.
Until March 5, her symptoms were described as relatively mild, and, according to Penn, a chest CT scan showed that the disease evolved into acute respiratory distress syndrome. Later, Dr. Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department, added that the female patient is currently stable and said she had a number of underlying health problems, KETV reported.
Officials in Nebraska said that epidemiologists were arriving in Omaha to trace where she went and her contacts, but they said it’s not clear at the moment. “We don’t know those answers right now, I’m afraid,” said Dr. Gary Anthone, Nebraska’s chief medical officer.
Pour noted that the patient made five visits to three separate healthcare facilities around Omaha and came into contact with dozens of healthcare workers. Care providers who may have had contact with the woman have been asked to self-quarantine, Pour said.
The patient’s father, meanwhile, has begun displaying symptoms and may place himself under self-quarantine, according to officials.
There is no evidence that the virus has spread throughout Nebraska, and state health officials have warned—echoing remarks made by authorities elsewhere in the United States—that the disease will likely spread.
“We may see additional confirmed cases in Nebraska,” said Dr. Tom Safranek, Nebraska’s state epidemiologist, in the report.
“We have to take it seriously,” Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert told the World-Herald. “But that does not mean the entire city will be shut down. We just have to be smart about it.”