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Lincoln Journal Star: Nebraska reports first confirmed case of coronavirus

Lincoln Journal Star: Nebraska reports first confirmed case of coronavirus
This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, orange, emerging from the surface of cells, green, cultured in the lab. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S.

The Lincoln Journal Star has reported Nebraska has its first confirmed case of coronavirus.

A 36-year-old Omaha woman who had been in the United Kingdom checked in at Methodist Hospital in Omaha on Thursday. She was being prepared to be transferred on Friday to the biocontainment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Dr. Robert Penn, epidemiologist at Methodist Hospital, said the woman was brought to the hospital with a respiratory infection on Thursday that had been ongoing for 12 days. She was diagnosed with pneumonia and had low oxygen.

She was put into a negative airflow room, and screening was done for common community viruses, which showed she was positive for COVID-19.

She is on the main Methodist campus but will be transported soon to UNMC’s biocontainment Unit, officials said. She has some secondary bacterial infections, and health care workers are trying to trace whom she may have come into contact with.

She is very seriously ill, Penn said during a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon.

A chest scan showed she has pneumonia-like acute respiratory distress, he said.

“We are keeping her and treating her here until transfer is available. The plan is to transfer her in an isolation pod; that will be going on relatively shortly.”

The patient became ill on Feb. 24. She had traveled with her father to the United Kingdom from Feb. 18-27, when she returned to Omaha, Penn said. She started to get symptoms while traveling but they remained mild until she came to the hospital on Thursday.

Gov. Pete Ricketts said the state epidemiologists are trying to track her movements over the last few days.

“We don’t want to speculate on that until we have the facts,” he said.

It’s not clear how many people in her immediate family may have been exposed, Anthone said.

“This is a traveler-related virus, so it’s not somebody in the community,” said Ricketts, who was on the conference call. “We appreciate the quick action of Methodist.”

The governor said Nebraska has the capability to test the people who need testing, but is working with the White House and UNMC to expand that capacity.

There are 19 health departments across the state that have been in constant communication about COVID-19. Those health departments will have to decide how they treat anyone who comes in with the disease.

Angela Hewlett, the medical director of the biocontainment unit that treated patients with Ebola, said UNMC is preparing a room for the woman. They are working to get her medical history now.

Shelly Schwedhelm at UNMC’s Biocontainment Unit gave kudos to the Methodist team for flagging the infection and taking all necessary precautions.

The woman will join one person from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the biocontainment.

Experts on Friday’s call said they just don’t know who the woman may have come into contact with over the last 11-12 days.

“We don’t know those answers right now, I’m afraid,” Anthone says. “I think it would be better if it were only a few days rather than a number of days, but that is something we’ll have to see.”