INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The man with Indiana’s first confirmed illness from the coronavirus outbreak was in isolation Friday after going to an Indianapolis hospital with mild symptoms, state health officials said.
The man became ill after returning Wednesday from a conference in Boston, where he had contact with people who have the virus that causes COVID-19, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said.
Box described the Indiana case as isolated and said health officials were reviewing the man’s travel and who else he had been in contact with since returning to Indianapolis.
The Indiana announcement came Friday as the U.S. tally topped 200 cases, including more than a dozen deaths. Illinois officials have reported five cases.
“With the global spread of COVID-19, the question has never been if Indiana would get a case, but when we would see one,” Box said.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced he was declaring a public health emergency to help obtain federal funding for a coronavirus response.
The ill man developed a sore throat, cough and low-grade fever before going to Community Hospital North in Indianapolis.
He waited in the parking lot until hospital staff came to him and took him through a side entrance to an isolation room for treatment and testing, said Dr. Ram Yeleti, Community Health Network’s chief physician executive.
The man was transported home for self-quarantine early Friday and there was minimal to zero exposure to other hospital patients, Yeleti said.
“At this time, we do not see any evidence for any spread of this,” he said.
Box said the man was otherwise healthy and emphasized that older people, especially those with chronic illnesses, are at the greatest risk from COVID-19.
Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department in Indianapolis, urged people to take precautions, wash hands frequently, and avoid hugging and shaking hands.
“I need the public to be patriotic and do the things they need to do to protect themselves,” Caine said. “I want them to take this virus very seriously, but you can die just as well from the flu.”
See the full release from the State of Indiana below
Governor Eric J. Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) announced today the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in a Marion County resident with a recent history of travel to Boston. To ensure continued coordination, Gov. Holcomb is issuing a public health emergency declaration.
“With the help of our federal, state and local partners, Indiana is responding to this case as we have planned and prepared for weeks,” Gov. Holcomb said. “The Hoosier who has been diagnosed has taken responsible steps to stay isolated.”
ISDH is working closely with the Marion County Public Health Department, Community Hospital North and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ensure that any close contacts of the patient are identified and monitored and that all infection control protocols are being followed.
A presumptive positive case means the patient has tested positive at the ISDH Laboratories. Samples will be sent to the CDC for final confirmation.
The public health emergency declaration Gov. Holcomb is issuing today will call on state agencies to continue their diligence and cooperation in responding to COVID-19 and ensures that Indiana can seek funding to control and stop the spread of coronavirus. The declaration will be posted at www.in.gov/gov.
State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, said the adult patient has been in quarantine since arriving back in Indianapolis and that the risk to the general public is low. The CDC will work to identify and notify air travelers who were on the individual’s flight from Boston and had close contact with the patient.
The patient will remain in isolation for 14 days and will not be released until specimens taken two consecutive days at the end of that period test negative for COVID-19. No additional information about the patient will be released due to privacy laws.
“The state health department has been preparing for weeks to ensure that we have the resources and systems in place to limit or prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Indiana,” Dr. Box said. “Given the global spread of this illness, the question was never if Indiana would have a case, but when it would arrive. I want to stress that this is an isolated case, and that this patient and the hospital did everything possible to limit the risk of exposure to other individuals. Because of those steps, the risk of additional exposure and community transmission is low, but we are taking every precaution to prevent new infections related to this patient.”
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing;
Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands;
Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands; and
Rarely, fecal contamination.
The best way to protect yourself from any respiratory illness, including the flu, is to:
Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Stay home when you are sick.
Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms to protect others from the risk of infection.
This is an ongoing situation and is evolving rapidly. ISDH will provide updates as new information becomes available. For more information, including a list of frequently asked questions, visit https://on.in.gov/COVID19.