Possible coronavirus case under investigation in central Delaware

In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, Passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high speed train station in Hong Kong. (Kin Cheung/AP Photo)

In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, Passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high speed train station in Hong Kong. (Kin Cheung/AP Photo)

A resident of Kent County in central Delaware is being tested for coronavirus.

That testing comes after state health officials reviewed the individual’s symptoms and travel history. Division of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay would not provide any details identifying the patient or location. She did say the person is being held in isolation in an unidentified hospital out of an abundance of caution.

“There is no widespread risk to hospital staff or other patients as all appropriate protective precautions are being taken,” Rattay said in an emailed statement. “Test results are pending from the CDC, and are expected in the coming days.”

Earlier this week, a Chinese exchange student at William Penn Charter School in Philadelphia tested negative for coronavirus. She was tested after passing through Wuhan, China, with a group of students on their way to the United States for a two-week-long exchange program last week. Wuhan is the epicenter of the virus. Despite the negative test result, the school announced Monday night it would end the exchange program early.

Even though the current guidance from health officials suggests a low risk to the general public at this time, Rattay said Delaware is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We consider any new infectious disease a serious concern and are working with health care providers to promptly identify and evaluate any suspected cases,” she said.

The state also has provided information to emergency responders on how to transport someone suspected of contracting coronavirus.

“Fortunately, Delaware has a strong disease surveillance system in place that includes partnerships with hospital and clinic systems as well as local health care providers,” Rattay said.

Residents are at a much higher risk of contracting the flu, which is at its peak in Delaware, she noted.

“For persons without an associated travel risk, it should be assumed that most respiratory illnesses are not 2019 Novel coronavirus,” Rattay said.

Last week, the state recorded 468 new influenza cases. The total number of flu cases this season in Delaware now stands at 2,415 — 1,100 cases more than this time last year.

The state recommends that residents take the same precautions they use to avoid the flu to avoid any possible contact with coronavirus.

“People should stay home when they are sick, cover their cough and practice good hand washing,” Rattay said.

In October, the state used a drive-through flu clinic to practice its response to a much bigger public health threat than the flu. The mobile clinic is very similar to what the state would use to inoculate residents or distribute medication in response to some new type of influenza that regular vaccines don’t cover. The state holds regular discussions about how to respond to a mass health crisis, and tests that response at events like the mobile vaccination clinic.

According to the latest numbers from the CDC, there have been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. Ninety-two cases are still under investigation.

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