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An illustration created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of COVID-19. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Photo by Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM/CDC

Hays County reports first presumptive COVID-19 case

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Hays County announced its first presumptive case of COVID-19 on Saturday.

Hays County and the City of San Marcos will declare a state of disaster on Sunday following Saturday's announcement, officials said.

"The declaration activates our emergency plan and will allow us to allocate resources and to utilize all disaster funding and resources available through state and federal agencies," Mayor Jane Hughson said in a statement. "We knew we would eventually see cases in our area and have been working cooperatively with our regional partners to protect our residents. We remind everyone to remain calm and to continue to practice preventive measures."

Hays County officials stated that the patient with the presumptive case of COVID-19 traveled to multiple cities along the United States West Coast and it’s believed they were exposed while traveling. The patient reported their symptoms to the Hays County Local Health Department upon arriving back to Central Texas. The patient was admitted to a local hospital and later released. The county said the patient will self-quarantine until they are symptom-free for 48 hours without use of fever-reducing medication.

“As this is a pandemic disease, we fully expected to see cases in Hays County and have been preparing for this situation,” County Judge Ruben Becerra said in a statement. “We have been working with local and state officials to ensure that protocols are established and followed, and that we have access to additional resources should they be necessary.”

County officials state that the patient did not expose any Hays County residents to the illness.

The Hays County Local Health Department is working with the Department of State Health Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to notify the passengers that were potentially exposed while on the plane with the patient, the county said.

COVID-19 is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to SARS and MERS viruses that have caused previous outbreaks. The disease is caused by a virus named SARS-CoV-2 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses. COVID-19 may take up to 2-14 days after exposure to appear. The disease can cause a wide range of respiratory illnesses, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease originated in Wuhan, China in late 2019.

According to the CDC, a  presumptive positive case is when a patient has tested positive by a local health laboratory but the results are still pending confirmation from a CDC lab.

Hays County Epidemiologist Eric Schneider stated that most persons who contract COVID-19 will have a low to moderate fever, a cough and congestion, typically treated with over the counter medications. Currently, there is no specialized treatment for COVID-19 as there is with influenza. Schneider said a majority of people who contract the coronavirus will not need to seek medical care. Schneider added that Hays County residents with these symptoms should self-quarantine until they are fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications for 48 hours.

“Residents with underlying health conditions or a weakened immune system and persons over 65 tend to be hardest hit by COVID-19 and should consult their healthcare provider if they are experiencing symptoms, as should persons with high fevers or shortness of breath,” Schneider said.

Tips to prevent the spread of COVID-19

Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds several times a day, including between your fingers and underneath your nails. Handwashing is considered the best way to remove germs and dirt, and hand sanitizers should be used only when handwashing is not available. The hand sanitizers should be at least 60 percent alcohol to be effective. 

  • Avoid handshaking and high-fives

  • Avoid touching your face – especially your eyes nose, and mouth

  • Stay home when you feel sick

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue then put the tissue in the trash, or use the crook of your elbow if a tissue isn’t available

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household disinfectant cleaning spray or wipe. Clean cell and desk phones, computer keyboards, door handles, and work surfaces often.

  • Face masks are not considered an effective way to prevent someone from catching a virus unless you have close, frequent contact with a sick person; however, they are an option for sick people to use to keep from spreading the virus.

  • Avoid travel to areas that have been designated high-risk areas because of multiple verified cases of coronavirus. 

This story has been updated since its first publication

San Marcos Record

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P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666