NYC’s first possible coronavirus case being tested by CDC

February 1, 2020 Mary Frost
Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference to discuss a suspected coronavirus case at Bellevue, a public NYC Health+ Hospital institution in Manhattan on Saturday, February 1, 2020. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
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The NYC Department of Health said on Saturday that a city resident who fell ill after returning from mainland China is at Bellevue Hospital, getting testing for the novel coronavirus.

The individual, who is under 40 years old, has been hospitalized in stable condition. Testing to confirm the presence of the virus will take a minimum of 36 to 48 hours, depending on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing capacity, the Health Department said in a release Saturday night.

The person had a fever and cough or shortness of breath, and testing ruled out other common causes of these symptoms, such as influenza and cold viruses.

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“An individual with a travel history to China felt unwell and sought help from a medical provider who promptly contacted the Health Department. This is exactly what we prepared for and we thank everyone for taking all the right steps,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said in a statement. She said that reports of the first person being tested in New York City “demonstrate that the system is working as intended.”

A Health Department spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle that the afflicted person’s borough of residence or time spent in the city before notifying officials could not be revealed as a matter of patient confidentiality.

Mayor Bill de Blasio held a press conference to discuss the suspected case at Bellevue, a public hospital in Manhattan, on Saturday.

As of Saturday, there were eight confirmed cases of the fast-spreading coronavirus in the United States and more than 14,000 worldwide, most in China, where it originated. Roughly 300 people have died.

A health professional explains how a medical mask must fit in order to be protective. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle
A health professional in Sunset Park explains how a medical mask must fit in order to be protective. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

On Feb. 24, de Blasio had warned that there was little doubt that someone in New York City would soon become infected with coronavirus.

“It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when,” de Blasio had told reporters at Emergency Management headquarters in Brooklyn.

Top officials from the NYC Department of Health, NYC Emergency Management, FDNY, NYPD, Health + Hospitals and other agencies have been planning for the outbreak, and ran a tabletop exercise on handling it last week.

In Brooklyn, which has a large Asian population, the Borough President’s office is coordinating a multi-lingual initiative in cooperation with all the involved health agencies to get the word out about the virus. This includes distributing informational flyers in three languages (English, Spanish and Chinese) and combating the spread of misinformation.

The coronavirus family includes SARS, MERS and the common cold, and is zoonotic, meaning it jumps from animals (frequently bats) to humans.

Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, often leading to pneumonia. The death rate is unknown as of yet, but it appears to spread very quickly. Some estimates have each infected person spreading it to roughly 2.6 other people, but that figure could change as more controls — such as banning flights from China — are put into place.

For those who feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have either traveled to China (or been in contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus) within 14 days of symptom onset, CDC recommends seeking medical care immediately.

Before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, the Health Department said, call ahead and tell them about your travel and symptoms, and avoid  contact with others. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not hands) when coughing or sneezing. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Borough President Eric Adams said the best way to help prevent contracting the coronavirus is to wash your hands as often as possible. Photo: Paul Frangipane/Brooklyn Eagle

The number of people getting the flu and dying from it is still much higher than those getting the coronavirus at this point, and health officials are urging people to get flu shots. CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 15 million illnesses, 140,000 hospitalizations and 8,200 deaths from flu. New York City reported a high rate of flu during the week ending Jan. 18, the latest data available.


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