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Raleigh

Wake County Health Officials Confirm COVID-19 Diagnosis, First in State



by: Tristan Dufresne,

RALEIGH — The North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health confirmed the “presumptively positive” novel COVID-19 test of a Wake County resident, according to a statement issued by the office of Governor Roy Cooper.

The press release, which was sent to media outlets on March 3, states that the patient in question was exposed to the virus in Washington State “at a long-term care facility where there is a currently a COVID-19 outbreak.”

“While awaiting confirmation of results from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will treat presumptive cases as positive and follow CDC guidelines to protect public health and limit the spread of infection,” the statement reads.

“The person is doing well and is in isolation at home.”

The patient was confirmed to have travelled through Raleigh-Durham International Airport on February 22, but was not displaying symptoms at the time.

“RDU regularly disinfects bathrooms in the terminals with products that meet criteria for helping to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” a statement on their website reads. They are also “consulting with public health officials about any additional steps.”

The COVID-19 strain of the coronavirus has infected more than 93,000 people globally, with approximately 3,200 deaths recorded as of publication.

According to the CDC website as of March 4, there had been 80 confirmed cases and nine deaths, across 13 states in the United States since January 31.

Eighty percent of infected persons are expected to show mild respiratory symptoms and fever, or be asymptomatic. The remaining 20 percent are expected to require hospitalization. Symptoms will generally manifest within two and 10 days after infection.

A study of 72,000 novel coronavirus patients recently published in JAMA medical journal presented findings that indicate COVID-19 has a mortality rate of around 2 percent. That would be significantly lower than the death rate of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome), which are both caused by different coronavirus strains.

Dr. Myron Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases and professor at UNC School of Medicine, told the Sundial that experts are attempting to gain new information as quickly as possible.

“COVID 19 is an ‘emerging pathogen’...we have had 6 weeks or less to learn the ‘rules’ that govern its behavior,” Cohen wrote in an email, adding “this information is already being put to use.”

Cohen also said that, for the average American who is worried, the best advice is to practice some behavioral changes. “Wash hands often and practice not touching your hands to your face...for people with [a] cough/sneeze (which is very unlikely to be caused by Covid19), cover your mouth/nose.

“People living in [North Carolina] have no special risk,” Cohen said. “North Carolina has a high concentration of experts in virology, pharmacology and infectious diseases, and great public health leadership in Raleigh.”

Governor Cooper established the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force in January to “support the state’s ongoing effort to monitor, prepare for and respond” to the disease. As such, the state will pursue a containment strategy and collaborate with federal and local officials to increase response time in the event that new cases appear.

“We’ve been preparing for this,” Cooper said at a March 3 press conference. “And we do expect to see more cases.”

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