Indiana’s first confirmed case of coronavirus involves Marion County resident

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Indiana state health officials confirmed the first case of coronavirus in Indiana.

Gov. Eric Holcomb made the announcement during a news conference Friday. He's declared a public health emergency in Indiana related to coronavirus and COVID-19.

Indiana State Health Commissioner Kristina Box said the case involved an individual who traveled to Boston and interacted with people who had been exposed to coronavirus. The individual, a Marion County resident, tested positive for the virus.

The man had developed a low-grade fever, sore throat and cough. He realized he may have been exposed to coronavirus and had been watching for possible symptoms. The man is not in the "highest risk" category.

The individual who tested positive for coronavirus has been staying in quarantine after isolating himself. No other patients or caregivers have been exposed, officials said. He'll remain in isolation for 14 days and won't be released until he tests negative for COVID-19 for two consecutive days.

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"We have been preparing for this possiblity and I want to stress that this is an isolated case at this time," Box said. "And I also want to commend this patient, Community Hospital North and the Marion County Public Health Department for their swift actions in this matter."

Box said the patient and hospital "did everything possible" to limit the exposure of anyone else to the virus.

"Because of those steps, the risk of additional exposure and community transmission was decreased," Box said.

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Dr. Virginia Caine with the Marion County Health Department said agencies have been preparing for the arrival of coronavirus in Indiana.

"Today's announcement that confirms this first case might cause some additional concern among residents and people who work here, but we have to emphasize again that we are well prepared. We've been waiting for this situation."

Officials said it was a matter of "when, not if" coronavirus would make it to Indiana. They've spent the last few weeks preparing for the eventuality.

"Stay home if you're sick, except to get medical care," Caine said. "When you seek that care first from your provider or your physician's office or even the emergency room, please call ahead first. We do not want an individual contaminating anyone in a waiting room area."

Dr. Ram Yeleti with Community Health Network said the patient called the State Department of Health Thursday night and said they may have coronavirus. The department notified Community North and said the patient was coming in for testing.

"Once he came, he stayed only in the parking lot. Our caregivers, dressed in the appropriate infectious disease precaution material, received him. He was then placed in appropriate material along with a mask," Yeleti said. "He was taken back to an isolation room through a different side entrance not in contact with other individuals. He was placed in a room with negative airflow."

Yeleti believes the man had minimal or zero exposure to anyone else. He believes area hospitals are safe, Community North especially, thanks to the precautions taken.

"It's also very important to understand that wearing a face mask is not going to reduce your risk of infection. Face masks are for people who we consider potentially infected," Yeleti said.

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Coronaviruses spread in multiple ways:

  • 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
  • In rare cases, fecal contamination

Health officials urged Hoosiers to take precautions, reminding them to wash their hands with soap and warm water. They also recommended that people "bump elbows" when greeting each other instead of shaking hands.

Hoosiers who believe they've been exposed to coronavirus should call their doctor or local health department to arrange testing.

Officials also reminded people to take precautions against the spread of any illness--be it coronavirus or flu.

Here are the recommended precautions:

  • 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.

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