State confirms fifth coronavirus case in Cook County involving traveler to Italy

  • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions from the media about the state's response to COVID-19 during a news conference Thursday in the governor's office in Springfield.

    Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker answers questions from the media about the state's response to COVID-19 during a news conference Thursday in the governor's office in Springfield. Associated Press

  • Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike answers questions about the state's response to COVID-19 during a news conference Thursday in the governor's office in Springfield.

    Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike answers questions about the state's response to COVID-19 during a news conference Thursday in the governor's office in Springfield. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/5/2020 10:17 PM

State officials confirmed a fifth Illinois resident has contracted the coronavirus after he traveled to Italy recently.

The Cook County resident, visited Italy and arrived back at O'Hare International Airport this month, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Thursday. WGN Channel 9 identified him as Edward Campbell, 21, a student of Vanderbilt University.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Campbell became infected with COVID-19 while studying in Italy. The school called his class back home and he decided to get checked when he wasn't feeling right, he told WGN. He is in isolation and stable at Rush University Medical Center.

Campbell told WGN that the illness feels "worse than a cold or flu, but not as bad as pneumonia." He said his parents and two siblings now must be quarantined at home for two weeks.

Cook County Department of Public Health officials are working to identify and reach all of the man's close contacts. Authorities also will be contacting airline passengers who were seated closest to the man on the flight home and monitoring their condition for 14 days, physician and Illinois Department of Public Health Director Ngozi Ezike said.

This latest coronavirus case was identified after testing at an state lab, and confirmation is pending from the CDC.

"The state is working around the clock to contain COVID-19," Pritzker said. "The risk to the general public remains low, but we are not taking any chances and preparing for eventualities. The best thing that the general public can do at this time is to take extra care and be vigilant about precautions that you should take during flu season."

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That involves taking extra care to wash hands, staying home if sick, covering the mouth and nose during coughing or sneezing, cleaning often-touched objects and surfaces frequently, and calling a doctor if experiencing symptoms.

Officials recommend that people returning from travel or a study abroad program in Italy self-isolate at home for 14 days, even if they are not exhibiting fever or respiratory symptoms. Should symptoms develop, they are urged to contact a health provider for testing.

Pritzker cautioned against stigmatizing people from a certain region or country.

"This virus isn't specific to any one ethnicity, nationality or population," he said. "Nothing fuels hate or hysteria faster than fear-induced xenophobia."

The four other coronavirus cases involving two married couples -- all older than 60 -- were reported in January and February. The first couple, who live in Chicago, have recovered. The second couple are in good condition and in isolation at home in suburban Cook County, officials said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We understand people are concerned, but we want to reassure residents that we have been working with local health departments, hospitals, clinicians, the CDC and other state agencies around the clock and are using every resource at our disposal to prepare," Ezike said.

The man in the second infected couple likely contracted the disease as a result of community transmission through domestic travel, Ezike said, since he had not traveled internationally nor had close contact with someone known to have COVID-19. His wife contracted it from him.

"Community spread here in Illinois is expected," she said. "However, at this time we are not seeing widespread transmission of this virus in the general public."

Public health officials are working with hospitals to assess bed capacity and to inventory supplies of protective gear.

The state is partnering with seven hospitals in Cook County, two hospitals in other parts of northern Illinois, and two hospitals in southern and central Illinois to conduct surveillance testing -- a voluntary program for people who test negative for influenza. Participating hospitals will send samples to one of three state labs to confirm whether those people have the coronavirus.

"This surveillance will help us determine if the virus is circulating in the community and to what extent," Ezike said. "With that information, we can tailor our response and better protect the health of all of our citizens. This continues to be a rapidly evolving situation."

For more about COVID-19, call the state hotline at (800) 889-3931, email dph.sick@illinois.gov or visit idph.illinois.gov.

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