NC investigating possible case of coronavirus in person who arrived at RDU from China amid outbreak

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Saturday, January 25, 2020
NC investigating possible case of coronavirus in person who arrived at RDU from China amid outbreak
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The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is investigating a possible case of coronavirus.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services is investigating a possible case of coronavirus.

The person involved recently traveled to China and passed through Wuhan City, where the outbreak originated but had not visited the seafood and animal market that was linked to many early cases, according to health department officials.

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The person arrived at Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Thursday.

Officials say the person had mild respiratory symptoms and is in good condition and in isolation at Duke University Hospital with symptoms similar to the flu.

Dr. Cameron Wolfe of Duke told ABC11 that the doctors have been training for a couple of years for potential respiratory infections that are novel or different where they'd have to look after patients

The person in this case was brought in and isolated. Samples from the patient were sent to CDC.

"It takes appropriate preparation but I wouldn't say it's scary at this stage because this is a respiratory virus and we would anticipate that respiratory viruses are common and they're common in the middle of winter," Wolfe said. "For this person, it's probably not going to be more severe than that."

The health department is arranging for testing with the CDC.

"Although it is unlikely that this person was infected with the 2019 novel coronavirus, we are conducting testing out of an abundance of caution," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Zack Moore. "If you haven't traveled to Wuhan in the past two weeks, your risk of infection with this virus is very low."

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The person did not have close contact with anyone after getting off the plane at RDU and wore a mask the entire time while at the airport, the health department said in a release.

The person was taken directly to the hospital from RDU for assessment and care using infection-prevention measures.

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"For most of us, this is not going to be a serious issue at all," Wolfe said. "Not to say we don't want to take good care of someone and do it carefully and appropriately, and that's what we're doing."

People who were at RDU or the hospital at the same time are not considered at risk for infection.

RELATED: New coronavirus kills 26, sickens 830 as China shuts down more cities

If infection with the 2019 coronavirus is confirmed, DPH will work with the CDC and others to reach out to people who came in close contact with the person on the airline flights.

Chinese health authorities reported at least 15 new deaths in Wuhan, raising the death toll to 41. Over 900 cases have been confirmed worldwide.

RDU issued the following statement on Friday:

The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority was notified that a passenger contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) after landing at RDU on Jan. 23 with concerns about potential exposure to the coronavirus. The passenger arrived at RDU from JFK after a trip to China that included time in Wuhan.

The Airport Authority responded immediately and continues to work with a number of partner agencies and outside organizations including the CDC, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, and Wake and Durham counties. The passenger was transported to Duke Hospital from RDU and is being evaluated by medical specialists while awaiting test results from the CDC.

According to state health officials, at no time were airport guests, employees and visitors at risk of infection and they do not need to take any special health precautions. Out of an abundance of caution, RDU followed the guidance of public health experts and completed appropriate disinfection protocols. Airport operations were not disrupted and RDU remains under normal operations.

RDU continues to work with public health experts regarding the release of information about this case. The CDC is the agency responsible for determining health screening protocols at airports.

Duke University Hospital also issued a statement on the matter:

Duke University Hospital clinical teams are diligently trained and prepared to respond if an individual suspected of a complicated or novel virus requires evaluation and admission at our hospital. We have identified an individual with symptoms of respiratory illness who recently traveled to China and placed this person under observation in a clinically appropriate setting while diagnostic testing is underway. Our infectious disease clinicians are following guidelines and recommendations set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a precaution. At this time, we are unable to confirm a diagnosis.