DHMC employee tests positive for coronavirus; first case in NH

Published: Mar. 2, 2020 at 12:20 PM EST
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New Hampshire health officials have confirmed the first case of the coronavirus and it's in the Upper Valley.

"Unfortunately, I'm here to tell you that the fourth test is positive," said N.H. State epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan Monday morning during a briefing with the entire Congressional delegation and governor. "This is an individual who went into their provider with symptoms of fever or respiratory illness after travel to Italy. We were appropriately notified and initiated testing on Saturday."

Officials say the infected person is not sick enough to be hospitalized and is recovering in isolation at home. Meanwhile, Dartmouth-Hitchcock set up an incident command at the facility to investigate if the virus could have possibly spread to other people.

"Not only figuring out how to reach out to individuals who may have had contact with this individual but much more broadly, how do we address concerns to the public. We know that there will be a response to this from the public. How do we answer their questions," said DHMC president Dr. Joanne Conroy.

"The most important message that we can get out is that the state is prepared. We know that the risk level does remain low," said Gov. Chris Sununu.

The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in China, has spanned the globe. Sununu says the state is taking a regional approach to combating the virus. He was on the phone with Vermont Governor Phil Scott Sunday. "We were talking about issues, not just what is happening within our border, but also what is happening across the border. The idea that folks may be flying into Montreal and coming in through our northern border," Sununu said.

The experts say the coronoavirus is not as deadly as SARS and MERS, but it is still imperative to practice good hygiene, like washing hands often, while state and federal health officials work to stop the spread.

"If there are questions, call the experts who know, because that is what is going to drive the response to this. They are prepared and they are getting more prepared," said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

Officials say there is no reason to panic, but that everyone needs to be vigilant.

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