HOUSTON – Fort Bend County Health and Human Services has confirmed the “first presumptive positive case of COVID-19,” according to a press release from the department.
The patient is a man in his 70s who recently traveled abroad and fell ill after returning to Texas, health officials said in a press conference Wednesday. The patient is currently hospitalized in stable condition. The man is the first person in Texas to test presumptive positive for COVID-19, outside of the cruise ship passengers in San Antonio.
Officials with the Houston Health Department conducted the man’s tests, which came back positive. The case is being called a “presumptive positive” while the samples are sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab in Atlanta for confirmation. However, local officials believe the veracity of the Houston test results.
“We believe that the result is, in fact, an actual positive,” said Dr. David Persse of the City of Houston Public Health Authority. “It will undergo a confirmation process at the CDC. But at this point, we have no reason to believe that it is anything other than accurate.”
“This presumptive case is actionable and we are treating it as a positive,” officials wrote. “Fort Bend County Health & Human Services has started an epidemiological investigation and is leading the effort to quickly identify close contacts with the individual. Close contacts may include family members, co-workers, emergency responders, and other contacts.”
Fort Bend County Health & Human Services identified 10 people, family and associates who had close contact with the patient. Officials said they were placed on a self-quarantine. Officials said if they don’t show symptoms during a 14-day period, no further observation will be needed. Officials said if they do show symptoms, they will be tested for COVID-19.
Citing federal HIPAA laws, health officials were tight-lipped about what country the man traveled to, what airport he returned to and when the tests were conducted. They do say at this point the situation appears to be isolated.
According to the Harris County Public Health Department, the Fort Bend County patient and two others who tested positive for COVID-19 in Harris County all returned from a trip to Egypt in late February where officials said they came in contact with the coronavirus. All three patients didn’t show symptoms immediately and went about their business as usual for a few days, officials said.
Officials are working to determine who else was on the trip with the three people and some people they came in direct contact with are under self-quarantine, officials said.
“As this case was associated with travel, at this time we still have no evidence of community spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Jacqueline Minter, director of Fort Bend County Health & Human Services.
“We are working around the clock with all local, regional, and statewide health authorities to monitor the situation and update the public," said Fort Bend County Judge KP George in a press release.
Officials say the situation is “rapidly evolving" and have asked residents to remain calm.
Stafford Fire Chief Lawrence Di Camillo said three personnel responded to the patient’s 911 call on difficulty breathing. Officials said they had contact with the patient but did not enter his home. Officials said the patient was alert and talking during transportation to a local hospital. Officials said all personnel will not be quarantined until symptomatic.
KPRC 2 found a lot of varying responses from people who live in Fort Bend County regarding the first presumptive positive case.
“Personally, I think it is blown way out of proportion,” B.J. Thomas said.
“I’m concerned, but at the same time, I am trying not to let it affect my daily life,” Caitlyn Moore said. “So I still go out and do things."
Many in the county are taking the preventative measures seriously.
“I just keep reminding my kids to wash their hands thoroughly," said Monica Vaugn.
WATCH: Stafford officials give update after ‘presumptive positive’ coronavirus confirmed in Fort Bend County
WATCH: Fort Bend County officials give an update after first ‘presumptive positive’ case of coronavirus confirmed
What do you do if you think you’re sick
Officials are asking people to not go to the emergency room “unless essential.” They say emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs. If you have symptoms like cough, fever or respiratory problems, you’re asked to contact your regular doctor first.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- 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 coughs and sneezes. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. Remember to wash your hands after coughing or sneezing.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.