A confirmed case of the coronavirus, or COVID-19, in Marion County caused a scare in Grant County Friday evening.

According to Health Officer William David Moore, MD, a miscommunication triggered social media worries for county residents. 

“I got a call from the office manager saying that we had had a confirmed case of coronavirus. I misunderstood her to say ‘in Marion General.' I confirmed with her that it’s with Marion County, not Marion General. And so we’re not known to have a confirmed case of coronavirus in Marion General Hospital, in Grant County. ... That was my error," Moore said.

Gov. Eric J. Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) announced Friday the first presumptive positive case of COVID-19 in a Marion County resident with a recent history of travel to Boston, according to Greta Sanderson, ISDH senior communications manager.

“With the help of our federal, state and local partners, Indiana is responding to this case as we have planned and prepared for weeks,” Holcomb said. “The Hoosier who has been diagnosed has taken responsible steps to stay isolated.”

A presumptive positive case means the patient has tested positive at the ISDH Laboratories. Samples will be sent to the CDC for final confirmation.

“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,” Sanderson said.

“To ensure continued coordination,” Holcomb also issued a public health emergency declaration.

“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,” Sanderson said.

State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG, stated 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,” Box said.

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,” stated Box. “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.”

Jeni O’Malley, ISDH chief communications officer, said the department has hosted multiple webinars for healthcare providers and posted CDC guidance on their website.

“The ISDH tests individuals in accordance with the CDC testing guidelines. CDC has issued criteria for when testing is appropriate. ISDH does not charge patients for these tests...,” O'Malley said.

According to the CDC, no vaccine or specific treatment for COVID-19 is available and care is supportive.

“As availability of diagnostic testing for COVID-19 increases, clinicians will be able to access laboratory tests for diagnosing COVID-19 through clinical laboratories performing tests authorized by FDA under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA). Clinicians will also be able to access laboratory testing through public health laboratories in their jurisdictions,” stated the CDC. “This expands testing to a wider group of symptomatic patients. Clinicians should use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested. Decisions on which patients receive testing should be based on the local epidemiology of COVID-19, as well as the clinical course of illness. Most patients with confirmed COVID-19 have developed fever and/or symptoms of acute respiratory illness (e.g., cough, difficulty breathing). Clinicians are strongly encouraged to test for other causes of respiratory illness, including infections such as influenza. Epidemiologic factors that may help guide decisions on whether to test include: any persons, including healthcare workers, who have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset or a history of travel from affected geographic areas within 14 days of symptom onset.”

Transmission

Human coronavirus most commonly spreads 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.

Protection

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,” stated Sanderson.

ISDH will provide updates as new information becomes available.

For more information, visit https://on.in.gov/COVID19 or http://www.in.gov/isdh/.

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplaindealer.com.

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