Wake County man tests positive for novel coronavirus, traveled through RDU in late February

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A man has tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Wake County, health officials said Tuesday.

In a news release, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said the patient is currently at home in isolation.

"I know that people are worried about this virus, and I want to assure North Carolinians our state is prepared," Cooper said in a written 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."



Officials said the patient contracted the virus after visiting a nursing home in Seattle, Wash., that is linked to seven deaths related to the novel coronavirus.

WATCH: Gov. Cooper and Coronavirus Task Force discuss first case in Wake County
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North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen said in a news conference that the patient flew on a plane from Washington.

In a written statement, a representative for Raleigh-Durham International Airport said the patient traveled through RDU on Feb. 22. The representative said the patient was not experiencing symptoms when they flew into RDU and was not identified as a risk to other travelers at that time.

"RDU is in close contact with public health experts and Airports Council International about best practices for airports related to coronavirus," the representative said, adding that RDU regularly disinfects bathrooms in the terminals and is consulting with health officials about any additional steps airport employees can take to increase passenger protection.



Cohen said officials are working to learn who was on that flight and will check those passengers for signs of the coronavirus.

A Delta Airlines public relations manager told ABC11's DeJuan Hoggard that to his knowledge, "we have not been asked for a flight manifest from the CDC of someone who tested positive on a flight to RDU from Seattle."

The spokesman would not confirm nor deny that it was one of their passengers.

Alaska Airlines is the only other nonstop carrier. But the other airlines have connecting flights that get travelers to RDU throughout the day on Saturdays.

Cooper said local health officials are identifying other close contacts of the man to monitor symptoms and contain the spread of the illness.

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During the news conference, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Chief Medical Officer Dr. Elizabeth Tilson said most people who develop coronavirus symptoms do not have major complications from the disease.

"What we are finding is that for COVID-19, the vast majority of people--more than 80 percent--have minor symptoms," Tilson said.



Currently, the World Health Organization reports the global mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4 percent. But Tilson said she expects that number will drop over time.

"Older people, with underlying health conditions, seem to be at higher risk," Tilson said. "We see that children seem to fare very well. Only about 1 percent of the cases have been identified in children and seem to fare very well."

RELATED: Children at lower risk for severe novel coronavirus symptoms, expert says

The North Carolina State Laboratory of Public Health announced Tuesday that laboratory technicians could perform testing for the virus in house, which would allow health officials to take swift action against any cases of the virus, specifically known as COVID-19.

While the patients has tested positive for COVID-19, all positive tests still require confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before being considered an official case of the virus, per Food and Drug Administration requirements.

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The man traveled through RDU on Feb. 22, airport officials said.



Cohen said the current case has not yet been confirmed by the CDC, but North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services will treat all presumptive cases as positive cases to limit the potential spread of infection.



"We have been identifying potential cases since late January," Cohen said during the news conference. "All of them have been negative to date. This is our first positive, and we will continue, I'm sure, to see additional cases of folks who maybe traveled, had contact with someone who had COVID-19, and we will continue to test them as we have before."

North Carolina Senator Thom Tillis released the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

"The health and well-being of North Carolinians is my top priority, and I'm working to make sure Congress comes together on a bipartisan basis to provide billions of dollars in federal assistance to combat the coronavirus and protect North Carolinians. 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."

Senator Richard Burr also released a statement Tuesday evening:

"As North Carolina responds to its first reported case of coronavirus, my number one priority remains protecting public health and safety. The U.S. is in a better position than any other nation to handle a public health emergency like coronavirus. But Congress must continue working to make sure first responders have the resources they need and the federal government is using all the tools at its disposal to stem the problem. I will continue working with federal, state, and local officials to ensure they have the support they need to protect North Carolina families and communities."

Congressman David Price (NC-04), who represents Wake County, released the following statement on the news of the first case of COVID-19 in North Carolina:

"The spread of COVID-19 into North Carolina is understandably concerning for the people of North Carolina, and especially those in my district, Wake County," said Congressman Price (NC-04). "While this appears to be an isolated case, I'm in close communication with state officials in North Carolina who are well-prepared to respond to a possible outbreak. As North Carolina's only appropriator, I am working to pass additional federal funds to step up the response to identify, treat, and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in North Carolina and across the nation."

So far, 60 cases and nine deaths have been reported in the United States, according to the CDC. Thirteen states have reported cases.

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