DHMC employee tests presumptive positive for coronavirus

by The Dartmouth Senior Staff | 3/2/20 1:48pm

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An employee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has tested presumptive positive for coronavirus and is experiencing mild symptoms.

Source: Courtesy of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center

Updated: March 2, 2020 at 3:55 p.m.

Updated: March 2, 2020 at 9:22 p.m.

An employee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, marking the first positive case in New Hampshire, state health officials announced on Monday. 

The individual, a native of Grafton County, recently returned from Italy — the location of a significant outbreak of the virus — and is currently isolated at home with mild symptoms. The individual’s case is considered a “presumptive positive” until it is officially confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control.

In a statement released Monday evening, DHMC said that the hospital is open and safe.

"We have done a thorough analysis and at this time we know of no exposure to any patients in clinical areas, and there is no on-going risk to patients," the statement read.

The statement said that the hospital has reached out anyone who could have had contact with the individual who has tested positive and that those contacted are required to self-quarantine at home for up to 14 days "out of an abundance of caution." The statement also noted that if someone has not been contacted by this time, they have not been exposed to the individual with the virus.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu said in a press conference Monday morning that the state is prepared and that the risk level of an outbreak remains low. 

State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said in the press conference that because the individual had recently traveled to Italy, health officials do not believe the case represents widespread community transmission. He noted that health officials have already begun investigating any potential contacts made with the individual who might need to be placed under self-quarantine.

Chan urged that anybody with flu-like or respiratory symptoms should stay home, and that everyone should practice preventative techniques such as hand-washing and coughing or sneezing into a sleeve. 

In an email sent to the Dartmouth community on Monday afternoon, Provost Joseph Helble said that the College is in close contact with DHMC on issues related to the case, and that Dartmouth recently formed a high-level task force that is meeting daily to plan for and manage potential disruptions related to the coronavirus.

Helble also noted that the College is considering the feasibility of continuing off-campus programs in the spring term given recommendations from the CDC to consider cancelling study abroad programs. He said an announcement on a decision will be made later this week.

The Dartmouth reported last week that the College ended a study abroad program in Rome early, while a group of students from a program in France who had visited northern Italy are self-monitoring for the virus.

Several colleges and universities have cancelled study abroad programs out of concern for the continued spread of the virus, which has infected nearly 90,000 people worldwide.

This article will be updated as more information becomes available.

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