HOUSTON - The Houston Health Department is reporting the second case of COVID-19, coronavirus disease 2019, within the City of Houston.
The new case brings the total number of confirmed and presumptive cases in the greater Houston area to six.
The health department says the new case is travel-related and there is no evidence of community spread.
The female patient, in the 60 to 70 age range, is part of the same group of travelers to Egypt associated with recent cases announced in Fort Bend County and Harris County. She is currently hospitalized and stable.
The health department says an investigation is underway to identify potential contacts exposed to the virus. The department will provide close contacts guidance about the virus and monitor them for the development of symptoms.
The health department says, for the general public, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at this time, the immediate health risk from COVID-19 remains low. People who have not been around anyone with COVID-19 or have not visited an ongoing outbreak area, are currently not considered to be at risk.
“This new case in Houston is not unexpected because it’s among the same group of international travelers associated with other cases in the Houston area,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “There remains no evidence of community spread, no need to alter our normal activity in Houston and certainly no reason to let fear grip our lives.”
The new case was tested and confirmed by CDC because the specimen was collected before the Houston Health Department lab started local testing. Houston’s first case, announced Thursday night, was tested in the Houston Health Department lab.
CDC is currently requesting COVID-19 specimens that test positive locally be sent to the CDC lab for further confirmation, but local testing is considered actionable, the health department says.
“This is not the first time the United States has faced a new virus without a vaccine or medication/treatment. In those instances, it was the work of the public health system, and support of the public, that ultimately contained the spread of disease,” said Dr. David Persse, local health authority for the Houston Health Department. “One of our primary tools to limit the spread of respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 is practicing healthy hygiene habits.”
The latest case in Houston is the sixth presumptive or confirmed COVID-19 case in the greater Houston area. All of the patients are in their 60s or 70s, and are linked to a recent trip to Egypt.
The first presumptive case was reported in Fort Bend County on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Harris County confirmed the first two cases of COVID-19. The tests were verified by the CDC. The patients are a man and a woman from the unincorporated area of northwest Harris County.
Later on Thursday night, two additional presumptive cases were reported — one man in Harris County and one man in the City of Houston.
Privacy protection laws only permit the release of limited patient information, and the health department is unable to release any additional patient information.
While COVID-19 is a new respiratory virus, daily precautions recommended to prevent respiratory illnesses are the same:
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue away. If you don’t have a tissue, use the elbow of your sleeve. Don’t use your hands to cover coughs and sneezes.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home when you are sick and keep children home when they are sick.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
• Get a flu shot. (Although the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19, it is flu season.)
The health department says people who recently returned to the United States from a COVID-19 outbreak area need to monitor for fever, cough and difficulty breathing for at least 14 days and seek medical care right away if they develop symptoms. Before going to a doctor’s office or emergency room, symptomatic people with a travel history to a COVID-19 outbreak area must call ahead to tell the healthcare professionals about their recent travel and symptoms.
Human coronaviruses most commonly spread from an infected person to others through:
• Respiratory droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing.
• Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands.
• Touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands.
Houston residents can visit HoustonEmergency.org for updated information about local risk, routine protective actions, frequently asked questions, communication resources, rumor control, emergency preparedness tips and more.