Oregon Announces First Case Of Coronavirus

Oregon announced its first case of coronavirus on Friday evening, becoming the last state on the West Coast to have at least one infection. There are multiple cases in Washington state and California but the source of the infection in this case, like two in California, is a mystery.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and state public health officials, who made the announcement at a hastily called press conference, said the person lives in Washington County and works at Forest Hills Elementary School in Lake Oswego.

“I understand that this news is concerning,” Brown said. “However, I want to reassure you that our state and local authorities are responding to the case.”

She said the state will release updates as soon as officials receive them. “We are taking this very seriously,” she said.

The person first experienced symptoms on Feb. 19. But that person wasn't tested until Friday. Brown said her team learned of the case at about 3 p.m., a few hours after unveiling the creation of a coronavirus response team to prepare the state for an outbreak. She said the move was just precautionary and that Oregon had no positive cases.

The person is being treated at Kaiser Permanente Westside Hospital in Hillsboro. State officials said the individual is an adult and still hospitalized, but declined to disclose the age or gender, citing privacy reasons.

The person did not travel to China and had no known exposure to someone who did, said Dr. Jennifer Vines, lead health officer for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties. She said this is a case of community exposure.

The U.S. now has three cases of unknown exposure, indicating that the virus is spreading in the community, at least on the West Coast.

Public health officials are tracking the person’s prior movements. Besides being at Forest Hills Elementary School, public health officials don’t know how many close contacts the person had. About 40 people work at the school, according to its webpage. The school has been closed for a deep cleaning. The CDC estimates that anyone within six feet of a person who’s infected could catch the virus.

Vines said officials will work throughout the weekend to trace the people who may have come into contact with the person.

“We’re looking for close and prolonged contact,” Vines said. 

“This person is in the hospital and is isolated,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, health officer and state epidemiologist for the Oregon Health Authority. 

Oregon Health Authority Director Patrick Allen said the state’s public health laboratory in Hillsboro conducted the test after getting the capability to do so Friday. The results will be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.

Brown said Oregonians should go about their daily lives. If they are sick, she said, they should stay home.

The state is waiting for the results of one other test. Two tests were negative.

The epidemic started in China and quickly spread to about 50 other nations and territories. Millions in China are under quarantine and travelers returning to the U.S. from mainland China face monitoring for at least two weeks to ensure they are not infected.

More than 60 confirmed coronavirus cases are in the United States, but no deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/summary.html

The virus has infected about 84,000 people in nearly 60 countries, and about 2,900 have died.

As of Monday, the authority was monitoring 76 people in Oregon who didn’t have any symptoms, but may have been exposed through travel to China or exposure to someone with the coronavirus. 

Another 178 people who were monitored for two weeks never got sick. Separately, two other people who may have been exposed developed symptoms, but tests showed they were not infected and they have passed  the monitoring period. 

Health officials say the public should protect themselves just as they would against the flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces that are often touched.
  • Consult the CDC’s travel page for any travel advisories and steps to protect yourself if you plan to travel outside of the U.S. https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel
  • Take care of your overall health. Staying current on your vaccinations, including flu vaccine, eating well and exercising all help your body stay resilient.

The state said it will update the website every Tuesday, starting next week, and will alert the public of any confirmed cases with a news release that will also reveal the person’s county.

“I am very confident about the work happening in Oregon,” Brown said. 

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or on Twitter @BenBotkin


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