The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that it has for the first time tested a person in Maine for the 2019 novel coronavirus.

The virus first detected in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 40,000 people worldwide and killed over 900. The vast majority of cases have occurred in China, and the potential risk of contracting the disease in Maine remains low, the CDC said in a news release issued Monday afternoon.

The person who was tested has agreed to remain at home, in accordance with federal CDC guidelines. Test results are typically available within one to five days. The state said it will make those results known once they become available.

“The potential risk to the general public is low,” the Maine CDC said in its statement. “Maine CDC is releasing this information to keep the public informed, as has been the practice of other states. Individuals from 37 other states and U.S. territories have been tested for the 2019 novel coronavirus.”

A total of 12 people have tested positive for coronavirus in six states. The vast majority of tests have come back negative. There have been no confirmed cases in Maine.

Medical professionals in Maine use federal CDC protocols to identify and assess potential cases of coronavirus. To warrant testing, the person from Maine had to have shown symptoms of a lower respiratory illness and either traveled to China within the last 14 days or come into close contact with a person known to have the virus.

It is unclear exactly how the virus is transmitted, but experts think it is spread mostly by droplets when people cough or sneeze. Health officials warn that it can take as long as 14 days for people who have been exposed to show symptoms.

Symptoms may include fever or signs of a lower respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath. If both exposure and symptoms are present, the federal CDC guidelines state that the patient should be isolated.

“This individual (being tested) is not associated with the alternative housing provided to some students at Colby College out of an abundance of caution,” the Maine CDC said in its statement. “Maine CDC is not currently releasing further details to protect the person’s privacy.”

Last week, Colby College announced it would isolate members of the college community who recently visited mainland China. Those individuals are being housed in a Waterville hotel. None of the individuals placed in isolation have shown symptoms of the virus and continue to be monitored per CDC guidelines.

Colby, citing federal privacy laws, has declined to say how many people connected to the school have been placed in isolation. The college also has declined to specify whether the people placed in isolation included students, staff and faculty.

Dr. Nirav D. Shah, director of the Maine CDC, emphasized in a statement that the risk of contracting the disease continues to remain low.

“This test follows protocols established by the U.S. CDC. At this point, 37 states have sent samples to the U.S. CDC for testing, and the vast majority of those tests have come back negative,” Shah said. “Right now, the best thing Maine people can do is to practice good hygiene, stay home if you feel sick, and share your recently travel history with medical providers if you experience fever, cough or difficulty breathing.”

Shah said that symptoms of the flu can resemble coronavirus symptoms. The flu is currently widespread in Maine. The Maine CDC is reporting 3,895 confirmed influenza cases this flu season, including 13 deaths, as of Feb. 1. Flu season runs from October through May.

“If you have similar symptoms and did not recently travel to China or did not have contact with someone with 2019 novel coronavirus, it is likely to be a cold or the flu,” Shah said.

The Maine CDC says it will continue to work closely with Maine health care providers, who must report any patients with recent travel to China that become ill with fever or respiratory symptoms. There is currently no vaccine or specific treatment available for the virus.

The U.S. CDC continues to monitor the outbreak in China. The U.S. reported the first confirmed instance of person to person spread on Jan. 30. And on that same date, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pubic health emergency of international concern.

 

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