coronavirus

Coronavirus in Illinois: 5th Case Confirmed in Man Who Flew to O'Hare After Travel to Italy

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A fifth person has tested positive for coronavirus in Illinois, state health officials announced Thursday.

The patient is a "Cook County resident in his 20s who flew into Chicago O’Hare Airport earlier this month after traveling to Italy," the Illinois Department of Public Health and Cook County Department of Public Health said in a statement.

"The individual acquired the infection while in Italy and is hospitalized at Rush University Medical Center in isolation," the statement reads. "Public health officials are identifying and contacting all close contacts."

Rush University Medical Center said in a statement that the patient was admitted early Thursday morning, adding that the hospital was "built for this" and the "entire Rush team is well prepared to address this evolving situation, including meeting the needs of all of our patients without compromising the care of anyone visiting Rush for other reasons."

"Rush University Medical Center has been preparing for potential coronavirus patients to arrive in need of treatment since the earliest diagnosis of a global threat," the hospital said.

"Rush is one of only 35 hospitals in the nation recognized by the Centers for Disease Control as a leader in infectious disease treatment," the statement continued, touting its "world-renowned infectious disease specialists, facilities and equipment to provide the diagnostics and treatment necessary to care for a person with a complex or highly transmissible disease while minimizing risk to other patients and hospital staff."

The state's fifth patient was tested at an IDPH laboratory, officials said, and his specimens have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmatory testing.

“The state of Illinois is working around the clock to contain COVID-19 and educate the public,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a statement. “Public health officials anticipated there would be additional cases and we will continue to implement robust measures to contain the virus while also preparing for further transmission. The risk of COVID-19 to the general public in Illinois remains low, but we encourage the public to be vigilant and take extra care with the normal precautions you should take during flu season.”

CPS also addressed questions about whether the Chicago school district would consider closing schools as coronavirus concerns persist.

Four patients in Illinois previously tested positive for the coronavirus amid the global outbreak, according to state health officials. Worldwide, more than 94,000 people have been sickened and more than 3,200 have died from the rapidly-spreading virus.

Illinois officials announced Monday that a woman in her 70s, the spouse of a man who tested positive over the weekend, was also diagnosed with the coronavirus, marking the state's fourth case.

State health officials said Thursday that the CDC had confirmed one of those "presumptive positive" cases was the coronavirus, while they were still awaiting results on the other case.

Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights said Monday that the man was being treated at their facility, but state health officials said Thursday that both patients were in home isolation and "doing well."

"At this time, the exposure route for the third and fourth cases is not known," the IDPH said Thursday. "Both individuals recently traveled to another state, but health officials have not been able to link them to a COVID-19 confirmed case in Illinois or the other state."

Health officials said because they have been unable to identify a point of exposure for the third and fourth patients, they believe it's possible the cases "may be due to community transmission in Illinois."

“While we expect to see additional cases, we are not seeing widespread transmission of the virus in Illinois and we believe the risk to the general public remains low,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said Thursday. “We understand people are concerned, but we want to reassure residents that we have been working with local health departments, hospitals, clinicians, the CDC, and other state agencies around the clock and are using every resource at our disposal to prepare.”

While there is a coronavirus screening process at O’Hare International Airport, passengers flying into the Chicago airport from Italy and South Korea aren’t currently being screened, officials said Thursday.

School District 25 in the Arlington Heights said in a letter Sunday that two staff members and their children were contacted by a babysitter whose relative, a hospital employee, had been exposed to one of the coronavirus patients. The staff members and their children work at or attend Dryden, Ivy Hill, Greenbrier and Olive Mary Stitt schools, the district said.

Though none of the employees or their children have experienced symptoms, the district said the group was staying home to self-monitor.

"I’ve been working directly with the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) and the Village of Arlington Heights," Superintendent Lori Bein said in a statement. "CCDPH has informed me that there is nothing additional that District 25 should do at this time."

Bein urged students who are sick to stay home until at least 24 hours after they no longer show signs of a fever and reminded staff and families of basic health precautions to take, like washing your hands and covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.

In January, two Chicago residents, a husband and wife, were diagnosed with the coronavirus. The wife had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, to care for a relative.

Both patients were treated at AMITA Health St. Alexius Medical Center in Hoffman Estates and have since made a full recovery.

Last month, Illinois became the first state to conduct its own tests for the coronavirus, allowing for quicker results. The state also opened this week two additional testing labs in central and southern Illinois, Pritzker said.

On Monday, officials said Pritzker requested that hospitals across the state implement additional testing to "improve surveillance for COVID-19."

The Illinois Department of Public Health launched a statewide hotline for the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, "to answer any questions from the public or to report a suspected case," Pritzker said. That number is 1 (800) 889-3931.

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