A virus affecting the lungs that was first discovered in humans around a market in Wuhan, China that has proven deadly to some and left others with lasting lung damage has made its way into Swain County, North Carolina at the end of April.
In its daily coronavirus report released on Saturday, April 26, Swain County Health Department said it was notified that three county residents had tested positive for COVID-19.
The patients are isolating at their respective homes in the county and contact tracing is being conducted. “Close contacts will be notified and advised to self-quarantine to the extent possible for 14 days and monitor for symptoms of a respiratory illness,” the health department release stated.
The three cases are considered to be community transmitted. The department declined to say what area of the county the individuals reside, wishing to protect their privacy.
Prior to Saturday, Swain County was one of just a handful in the state reporting no positive cases. Neighboring Graham County, which closed its borders early on reported its first case of the virus on Monday after lifting the closure that was too costly to maintain. Cases in Western North Carolina remain relatively low compared to the more populated areas of the state.
Swain County Health Director Alison Cochran credited the government’s State of Emergency and supplemental declarations in preventing an outbreak.
“The Board of Commissioners took the necessary steps to protect the community with the supplemental declarations and the community has done a great job following their orders and Governor Cooper’s orders,” Cochran said. “ Closing rentals was key in reducing the spread of transmission of COVID-19. We need to continue to follow Governor Cooper’s Orders, local declarations and remember to follow social distancing guidelines and practice proper hand hygiene.”
Swain County Board of Commissioners will be meeting on Monday, May 4 at 9 a.m. for the next update on the virus. Cochran noted the county will follow Gov. Cooper’s stay at home order, which he extended until at least May 8.
It’s unclear if the board might lift some of the local actions such as the closure of public parks, but it seems more likely the board will follow the leadership set out by the state in taking a cautious approach to reopening the economy.
Cochran reiterated the importance of continuing social distancing measures and using proper hygiene to prevent any further spread of the extremely contagious virus. “It is important to remember we are still under a Stay at Home Order from Governor Cooper. If you have to go out, social distancing is very important along with frequent hand washing,” she said.
Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
The Centers for Disease control has recommended people wear face covering over their mouth and nose when out in public areas where they may be in close proximity to others, such as at the grocery store. Although the masks may not protect the person from wearing them, it is effective in spreading germs to others.
“Face coverings can be worn but cannot take the place of social distancing and proper hand hygiene,” Cochran said.
No additional positive cases have been reported in Swain County. As of Tuesday, April 28, there have been a total of 449 tests with 421 returning negative results. There were 25 pending results.
Local doctors offices and hospitals can conduct COVID-19 tests. The results are taking an estimated 3-5 days, according to Cochran.
The CDC urges anyone who becomes ill with a respiratory illness to self-isolate until the following criteria is met:
• At least 3 days have passed since recovery defined by no longer having a fever without the use of fever-reducing medication and improvement in respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath)
• At least 7 days have passes since symptoms first appeared.
Symptoms for COVID-19 are fever, cough, and other lower respiratory illness (shortness of breath). If you are having a mild respiratory illness, isolate yourself from others until the criteria above is met. If your illness becomes severe requiring urgent or emergent health care, call and inform your health care provider or emergency services of your symptoms prior to arrival.
For more information, please visit the CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus and NCDHHS’ website at www.ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus