The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in San Antonio on Feb. 13, according to a news release from the federal agency. The case is the 15th known COVID-19, commonly referred to in recent weeks as coronavirus, infection in the United States so far.
This is what Austin residents need to know about COVID-19.
What is COVID-19?
On Feb. 11, the World Health Organization announced COVID-19 as the official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak. In recent weeks, federal agencies had referred to the disease simply as novel coronavirus or just coronavirus, including the CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services.
COVID-19 was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, according to the CDC website, and has since led to thousands of confirmed cases in China. Some of those cases have resulted in death.
Cases of the disease have since been confirmed in 27 other countries in Asia, Europe, North America and Australia, according to the CDC.
According to Texas Health and Human Services, human coronaviruses spread from an infected person to others through coughing and sneezing, close personal contact and transmission through objects.
On Jan. 30, the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. One day later, Alex Azar II, the secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services, declared a public health emergency, and President Donald Trump signed a proclamation that suspended entry of immigrants and native-born Americans returning from China who posed a risk of transmitting the virus.
As of Feb. 12, more than 400 individuals across seven states in the U.S. have been investigated for COVID-19, according to the CDC website. The case confirmed Feb. 13 in San Antonio is the 15th individual who has tested positive for the disease. There are still 66 cases pending review, according to the CDC.
How was the case confirmed?
According to the CDC, the patient with the confirmed case of COVID-19 in San Antonio is one of a group of people under a federal quarantine order at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, a U.S. Air Force base because of their recent return to the U.S. on a State Department-chartered flight that arrived on Feb. 7 from China, the CDC news release stated.
The patient is the first individual under quarantine at the Air Force base who had symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19, the CDC said in its news release, and is currently isolated and is receiving care at a nearby designated hospital.
Are other people under quarantine?
In its news release this morning, the CDC stated more than 600 individuals who returned on chartered flights from Wuhan remain under federal quarantine and are being monitored. The federal agency said 195 people were released from quarantine Feb. 11.
Have any other cases been confirmed in Texas?
While no other confirmed cases of coronavirus in Texas have been announced, federal officials expect more cases of the virus to pop up in the near future.
“There will likely be additional cases in the coming days and weeks, including among other people recently returned from Wuhan,” the CDC said in its news release.
However, Dr. Jay Zdunek, the chief medical officer for Austin Regional Clinic, cautions those cases are most likely to come from those individuals already quarantined on the airplane, and for the rest of the general population, the chance of contracting COVID-19 is extremely low.
“The likelihood of catching or spreading it at this point of time is very remote. ... Unless you’ve been in contact with someone with a confined case ... the likelihood of being exposed to it is minimal,” Zdunek said. “If you're sick and you haven’t been to mainland China or been in contact with someone with the coronavirus, it is likely the flu.”
Zdunek told Community Impact Newspaper the CDC is not testing individuals who are reporting flu-like symptoms if they have not recently traveled back from mainland China or if they have not been in close contact with an individual infected with COVID-19.
“People need to take a deep breath and realize even that ... the risk remains relatively small to the population in general,” Zdunek said.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
The CDC website lists fever, cough and shortness of breath as symptoms in confirmed cases of COVID-19.
Symptoms may appear in a patient “in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure,” the CDC website states.
Are there ways to prevent spreading the virus?
On the CDC website, the federal agency first recommends getting a flu vaccine if a person has not yet done so.
“This has been a prolonged flu season,” Zdunek said. “We expect the flu eason to run for another 4-6 weeks, so there is still protection to be gained at this point in time.”
Zdunek said to follow CDC guidelines and take preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. This includes regularly washing hands and avoiding close contact with people exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
“If you are sick, use a respirator mask, stay home from work and stay home from shopping until you are feeling better,” Zdunek said.
What you should do if you suspect you or a relative has contracted coronavirus
Individuals who have had close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 who develop flu-like symptoms are encouraged by the CDC to contact their health care provider with information about their symptoms and contact with the infected person.
The CDC website has explicit guidelines for travelers who have just returned from mainland China or patients who have a confirmed case of COVID-19. Those guidelines can be read here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/steps-when-sick.html