The corona virus has reared its ugly head in two counties adjacent to Allen County.
Adams Health Network sent out a notice March 9 that Adams Memorial Hospital in Decatur was evaluating a COVID-19 “Person Under Investigation.” The person is in an isolation room at the hospital while waiting for lab results from the Indiana State Department of Health, which confirmed the disease.
New precautions have been established: At Adams Memorial Hospital nobody under 18 is allowed on the second floor. Only two visitors are allowed per person, and they must check in at the nurses’s station. Visitors must be fever-free and without respiratory illness symptoms.
Extra precautions are being taken at Adams Health Network senior facilities as well. No visitors are allowed at Adams Woodcrest, and no visitors under 18 are allowed at Adams Heritage.
Noble County Health Officer Dr. Terry Gaff and Parkview Health have confirmed a single positive test result for the COVID-19 coronavirus was returned from a patient now at Parkview Noble Hospital in Kendallville.
It is currently the only known case in Noble County and one of only a few in Indiana.
The adult patient is currently in isolation in Parkview Noble Hospital’s intensive care unit, according to Parkview.
“There is a presumptive positive COVID-19 coronavirus test done for a patient who has symptoms consistent with that illness here at Parkview Noble,” Gaff said March 9. “The test was done at the state board of health with results available last evening.
“We’re taking every precaution we can to help slow down and in some cases prevent the spread of the virus, which we can expect to become widespread, not because of this case but because of the nature of the virus itself,” Gaff said.
A presumptive positive case means the patient has tested positive at the state laboratories. Samples will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final confirmation, according to Parkview.
The patient sought treatment for an illness at Parkview’s FirstCare walk-in clinic at 512 Professional Way, Kendallville, on March 1, and then went to see doctors a second time on March 5 at the walk-in clinic in Fort Wayne at 3909 New Vision Drive, near the Parkview Regional Medical Center campus.
Both clinics closed and underwent deep cleaning, while staff were advised to remain at home and were to be tested for possible exposure.
Gaff said he could not reveal personal information about the patient but that the case may be travel-related. The patient had recently been in Florida before returning to Noble County and becoming ill, he said.
“This person was traveling in Florida prior to the onset of this illness. So although it’s impossible to be 100% certain, we feel it is likely he contracted the virus during his travel,” Gaff said.
As this is the only case currently known in the county, Gaff said people should be thoughtful but there’s no need to majorly disrupt day-to-day life. He said treat this threat the same as you would with other communicable diseases like influenza.
“Personally I would avoid large groups of people and simply because statistically there may be somebody who is ill in that group,” Gaff said. “We recommend people who are feeling ill should stay home, and that’s the best advice we can give to people. If you’re feeling fine you can go about your business, but monitor your health.”
Even among people who are infected, most don’t display any noticeable symptoms. In those who do, symptoms can appear flu-like including fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Of people who do experience symptoms, the virus is only fatal in a small number of cases, but it’s still something to be aware of and prepared for because the virus appears to have a high transmission rate.
The elderly and infirm are more susceptible to have serious symptoms, as is the case with most diseases. Unlike many diseases, however, children and the young appear to have unusual resistance to the virus, although it’s not clear why.
“The children and young even adults up to the age of about 18 or 19 seldom get seriously ill with this virus. That’s not to say never, but seldom get seriously ill with it, we don’t know why that is,” Gaff said.
Even though symptoms and serious complications are smaller percentages, everyone can benefit from practicing good hygiene and take precautions that can help prevent the spread of the virus.
Those include washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; coughing and sneezing into tissues and throwing those immediately away; disinfecting common areas that people touch; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth as much as possible; and, importantly, staying home from work or school if you are feeling sick.
“If you’re sick stay home,” Gaff said. “If you’re dangerously ill, have difficulty breathing, you call 911 so the appropriate protective equipment can be used.”
To prevent exposure to others, individuals who are experiencing respiratory symptoms are encouraged to call their healthcare provider prior to arriving at a healthcare facility. Parkview Health patients can call the Parkview Access Center at 877-PPG-TODAY to speak with a nurse and be directed to appropriate care.
Schools remaining open
East Noble School Corp. Superintendent Ann Linson is advising parents that schools will remain open for the time being. She sent the email to parents March 9, indicating a 54-year-old man had been diagnosed at Parkview Noble Hospital.
“Many of you may have heard this information. A 54 year old gentleman was diagnosed with coronavirus while at Parkview Noble Hospital. This man does not have any school age children and does not live in Kendallville or our district. The Department of Health has advised there is no immediate need to close our schools. They did want us to remind everyone to diligently follow the below practices to prevent the spread of viruses,” Linson wrote in the email.
West Noble Superintendent Galen Mast also sent out a parent email blast, indicating the same things for his district.
“The department of health has advised us that there is no immediate need to close school or change programming. He asked that we remind the West Noble community to continue to practice normal and good hygiene practices to help prevent the spread of the disease,” Mast wrote. “We will continue to monitor the news around the coronavirus and the potential spread of it. We will follow closely the Department of Health’s recommendation when it comes to proactive and preventative care for our students and staff. If we are advised to close, e-learning days will be utilized. We will keep you informed as the situation evolves.”
Central Noble issued a substantially similar notice on Monday, also indicating it will remain open for the time being.
“We will continue to monitor the spread of the virus. If the Noble County Department of Health advises the district to close, then we will issue an e-learning day,” Central Noble Superintendent Troy Gaff wrote. “We will keep you informed as the situation evolves. Thank you for your continued support.”
Few cases in Indiana
The positive coronavirus test is one of only a handful in Indiana at this time.
The Indiana State Department of Health has previously confirmed two cases of COVID-19, the disease resulting from a coronavirus infection, in Indiana. The first was a person in Indianapolis who had recently traveled to a conference in Boston. The second was an adult in Hendricks County, just west of Indianapolis, who had been at the same conference.
News reports from around Indianapolis indicate an Avon elementary school student had also been diagnosed, triggering a two-week closure of local schools.
Dr. Deborah McMahan, Allen County health commissioner, said the region has been preparing for a COVID-19 case and assured residents that all necessary steps are being taken to reduce the spread of the illness.
“The Department of Health is working closely with Parkview Health and leaders throughout the community to ensure the health and safety of all our citizens,” McMahan said. “We commend Parkview for the speed with which they addressed the situation and implemented appropriate measures. We want to remind the community to be prepared as the situation evolves every day.”
Rep. Jim Banks, R-Columbia City, issued a statement Monday morning that he was aware of the northeast Indiana case and will be monitoring the situation from Washington.
“Our office has become aware that an individual at Parkview Noble Hospital has been diagnosed with COVID-19,” Banks said. “We’ve also learned that the East Noble School Corporation learned of the development and notified families and staff this morning that the infected individual does not have school age children.
“As such, my office reached out to Parkview Health, the Noble County Health Department and East Noble School Corporation. We’ve requested regular updates on the new coronavirus case and offered any assistance our office can provide.”