Durham, Wake Counties Investigate Possible Exposure to New COVID-19 Case

The Durham County Department of Public Health and the Wake County Public Health Division are currently investigating who was potentially exposed to an Indiana resident who traveled to both counties last week and has now tested presumptively positive for COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is running a second test to confirm these results.

“The Indiana State Department of Health notified us last night about the test results and provided us with a report on where this person went while showing symptoms of COVID-19,” said Rod Jenkins, Durham County Public Health Department director. “Right now, we’re following the patient’s path – trying to determine when and where people may have come in close contact with the patient.”

The CDC defines “close contact” as being within six feet of the patient for at least 10 minutes.

Patient Timeline
Using the timeline provided by the state of Indiana, the counties are mapping this person’s movements prior to returning home.

On March 1, the patient flew from Indiana to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

On March 2, the patient started showing upper respiratory symptoms while at work at Biogen’s Research Triangle Park, North Carolina location, which is currently the only known location of potentially high-risk of exposure.

The CDC says COVID-19 is most likely to be transmitted when the patient is symptomatic. Therefore, public health officials believe there is little risk to anyone who came into contact with the patient prior to March 2, because the person was not showing symptoms.

On March 6, the person drove back home to Indiana.

Conference Connection
Prior to visiting Durham and Wake counties, the patient attended a corporate conference in Boston, Mass. during the last week of February. More than two dozen other conference attendees have also tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.

Risk Assessment
“If you have a known increased risk of exposure to COVID-19, a county public health staff member will contact you directly,” said Chris Kippes, Wake County Public Health Division director. “If we have not contacted you and you do not have any symptoms, you do not need to quarantine yourself or take precautions beyond washing your hands, covering your cough, and staying home from school or work if you feel sick.”

The public health teams are assessing the risk of each person who was in close contact with the patient and determining if quarantine and testing for COVID-19 are warranted.

The specific steps they take include:

  • Interviewing the person to assess their exposure risk level. This includes understanding how close they were to the symptomatic patient.
  • Based on that assessment, public health staff determine which additional public health activities are required, such as temperature and symptom checks.
  • If the person is put in quarantine and remains asymptomatic 14 days after exposure, they will be released from quarantine.
  • If the person in quarantine develops symptoms, public health staff would assess the need for testing them for COVID-19.
  • If the result is presumptive positive, the person is put in isolation. Once they become asymptomatic, they require two negative tests at least 24 hours apart to be released from isolation.

Protecting Yourself
Although your risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low, both counties encourage you to protect yourself from COVID-19 and any other flu-like illness by following these simple steps:

  • Wash your hands.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Stay away from sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces using regular household cleaning spray or wipes.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Stay home if you’re sick and don’t send sick children to school or childcare.

Staying Updated
Durham and Wake counties have made it easy for you to stay updated on the latest information about COVID-19.

In Durham County, visit the dcopublichealth.org COVID-19 webpage to learn more about how Durham County and the North Carolina Department for Health and Human Services are responding to COVID-19. Here, you will also find tips for staying healthy, informational graphics, and links to more information from credible sources. Durham County will also continue to add COVID-19 updates on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. 

In Wake County, you can visit our COVID-19 webpage, which has a set of frequently asked questions to educate residents, as well as an email address and phone number that people can use to ask personal health-related questions about COVID-19. Wake County is also sharing important information on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Press Release