One person tested presumptively positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Wake County, North Carolina, according to a state health official who confirmed the state’s first case of the mysterious new virus that has left at least nine people dead in the United States.
“I know that people are worried about this virus, and I want to assure North Carolinians our state is prepared,” said Gov. Roy Cooper in a statement. “Our task force and state agencies are working closely with local health departments, health care providers and others to quickly identify and respond to cases that might occur.”
The patient had traveled from Wake County to Washington state and was exposed to the virus at a longterm health care facility where there is an outbreak. Officials in King County, Washington, said that several COVID-19 patients and deaths have been linked to the Kirkland-based Life Care Center.
Now, health department officials in the state are attempting to identify anyone who may have had close contact with the patient. No other details about the patient, including the person’s age, were released to the public.
“Today’s announcement represents an isolated case, and COVID-19 is currently not widespread in North Carolina. Because COVID-19 is most commonly spread through respiratory droplets, North Carolinians should take the same measures that healthcare providers recommend annually to prevent the spread of the flu and other viruses, including washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and covering coughs and sneezes,” according to the health agency.
The infected person traveled back to North Carolina on a flight, said Dr. Mandy Cohen, of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in a news conference. Now, officials are contacting and identifying the people who were on the plane with the patient.
“I’m in close communication with Vice President Pence and other federal leaders, and I will do everything I can to continue supporting our state’s medical institutions, universities, and health care systems, which are some of the best in the world and have a proven track record in treating infectious diseases,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in a statement.
So far, according to officials in Washington, nine people have died from the virus, and more than 20 people have been confirmed to have contracted the illness. About 50 patients and staff at Life Care are being tested for the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will have to confirm any presumptive COVID-19 cases in the state, said officials.