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Health officials confirm coronavirus case in Arizona

Officials say the person infected is part of the Arizona State University community but does not live in university housing.

PHOENIX — A person who is part of the Arizona State University community is the first in the state to be diagnosed with the coronavirus, raising the number of confirmed U.S. cases of the new pneumonia-like virus from China to five. 

The Arizona Department of Health Services and Maricopa County Department of Health announced the diagnosis in a press release on Sunday. 

The person who was diagnosed with the novel coronavirus had recently traveled from Wuhan, China, just like the other four U.S. patients who have been diagnosed.  Health officials wouldn't say whether the person is a student or staff member ASU.

Dr. Cara Christ, director at the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said the person affected had been following news of the virus and called their healthcare provider when they thought they could be impacted.  

That person has been in voluntary isolation since going to the doctor to keep the illness from spreading.

"Very similar to any other type of communicable disease outbreak that we normally run such as measles or foodborne illness," Christ explained. "They will be following up with individuals that they believe are close contacts with them." 

Health officials are investigating any people who may have been exposed to the virus while the person was infectious. 

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Anyone who is identified as having been exposed will be contacted by health officials and monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms. 

The university said in a statement on Sunday that the individual lives in Tempe, but does not live in university housing. 

ASU also said there is no exposure to classrooms. 

Here is a timeline of the person's diagnosis:

"ASU is working closely with (Maricopa County health officials) to investigate any contacts that this individual may have exposed while infectious," part of the statement read

"Those who have been exposed will be notified directly by either ASU or Public Health and given specific instructions on monitoring for symptoms. If you have not been notified, you have not been identified to be at risk of developing symptoms."

Sky Harbor Airport officials said there have been no requested changes to any of the airport's standard health and safety protocols. Sky Harbor also does not have any nonstop flights from China, where the virus was first identified. 

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"Our health and safety protocols remain as such: If a patient arrives in Phoenix with symptoms of the coronavirus, the Phoenix Fire Department would provide the initial response and then it would contact public health officials," airport officials said.  

"Additionally, we have 24-hour cleaning and sanitation airport-wide, and provide hand sanitizer throughout the terminals. We are in close contact with county, state and federal health officials and will follow their direction should further action be needed."

The CDC, which is screening passengers on direct flights from Wuhan to five major airports in the U.S., says they expect more Americans to be diagnosed with this new virus. It has an incubation period of about two weeks.

As the Associated Press points out, the virus, a member of the coronavirus family, carries symptoms like coughing, wheezing, pneumonia and fever. It is a close cousin to the deadly SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.

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Public health officials are advising residents that flu and other respiratory diseases are circulating in the community, and are recommending everyone get a flu shot and follow basic prevention guidelines.

The best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses are to:

  • 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 immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

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If you have recently traveled to Wuhan, China and have developed fever with cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel, or have had contact with someone who is suspected to have the coronavirus, stay home and call your healthcare provider right away.

 If you do not have a health care provider, you may need to be seen at your local hospital emergency room/urgent care center. Please call the emergency room/urgent care center to get instructions before going in.

For the latest information about 2019 Novel Coronavirus, visit azhealth.gov/coronavirus.