Virus Outbreak Vaccine Science (copy)

This undated electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health in February 2020 shows the Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus causes COVID-19. The sample was isolated from a patient in the U.S. Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine as COVID-19 cases continue to grow. (NIAID-RML via AP)

Health officials have communicated with the close contacts of the Culpeper County worker who tested positive for the novel coronavirus and asked them to self-quarantine, the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District said late Friday.

“Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District staff have communicated with everyone identified as close contacts of this individual. They have all been asked to self-quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms for 14 days from the date of potential exposure,” the district said in a statement. “All potential exposure occurred on a single day at a business location in Culpeper.

“No other persons in Culpeper County were exposed to this individual and no one else is asked to quarantine at this time,” the district added. “To protect patient confidentiality no further information about the business name or patient can be released.”

The person’s identity is protected by the federal Americans With Disabilities Act, as is that of many patients.

The person works in Culpeper County, but lives elsewhere, the district had said Thursday evening in announcing the first COVID-19 case linked to Culpeper.

Health Department staff members planned to conduct interviews in Culpeper in the case, said Bill Ooten, director of the Culpeper County Office of Emergency Services.

On Friday, the Virginia Department of Health reported 114 COVID-19 cases in the state, with 20 people hospitalized. Two people in Virginia have died from the disease.

The department said 2,325 people in Virginia have been tested for the coronavirus to date.

The Culpeper case has been included in the statewide case count at www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

Nearly 9,300 people commute to Culpeper County per day, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. The most commuters (about 2,700 people) drive to Culpeper from the surrounding counties of Orange, Madison and Fauquier, where no cases of coronavirus have yet been diagnosed.

Otherwise, the top 10 places of origin for commuters to Culpeper include Spotsylvania (729 commuters to Culpeper), Prince William County (389), Fairfax (364), Loudoun (326) and Stafford (267), VEC reported in its Community Profile for Culpeper. Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in all of those counties.

Some 14,220 Culpeper residents commute to work outside of the county every day, VEC reported.

“As we continue to see new cases of COVID-19 throughout the commonwealth, it is critical that people follow the public health guidelines on social distancing and good hygiene,” Dr. Wade Kartchner, the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District’s director, said Thursday. “Social distancing is one of the most effective strategies in lessening the impact of this pandemic.”

People should avoid social gatherings of more than 10 individuals, Kartchner said.

If you are 65 years or older, or have serious chronic medical conditions (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, immune compromise), you should seriously consider staying at home, he said.

“We all have a responsibility and duty to do everything we can to protect ourselves and our community from this novel coronavirus,” Kartchner said.

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms.

But in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among older people or people with chronic medical conditions, the district said.

The disease’s symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the district said.

To lower the risk of spreading respiratory infections, including COVID-19, the Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District encourages these effective behaviors:

— Stay home when you are sick.

— Avoid contact with sick people.

— Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.

— Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

— Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

— Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

— If you are experiencing symptoms, call your doctor.

As the COVID-19 outbreak expands, these recommendations may change.

The Rappahannock-Rapidan Health District said it is working closely with the Virginia Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide the best possible guidance for the community.

For general questions about COVID-19, residents can call the RRHD COVID-19 Hotline at 540-316-6302. For the latest on COVID-19, visit vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus.

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