Testing by the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory has discovered the presence of COVID-19, also known as the novel coronavirus, in a Wyoming resident for the first time.

The state's first case is a woman from Sheridan County with "some recent domestic travel history."

The announcement was made by the Wyoming Department of Health following President Donald Trump's address to the nation Wednesday.

"WDH is following up to learn more details about the person's exposure risk and to identify and communicate with anyone who may have been in close contact with the patient," department spokeswoman Kim Deti said in a news release Wednesday. "Known contacts will be monitored for symptoms and tested if needed."

"As is currently standard, the test result is considered to be a 'presumptive positive' and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will conduct further testing for confirmation," Deti explained.

Dr. Alexia Harrist, a state health officer and state epidemiologist with the department, said the current risk of transmission in Wyoming remains low for most residents.

"We expected to identify a case in Wyoming at some point because the reach of the disease is clearly growing. Travelers to certain affected locations and close contacts of ill people are still overall at the highest risk of becoming ill," Harrist said.

Symptoms reported with the disease are familiar to many: fever, cough and shortness of breath. COVID-19, the virus of international concern currently, is one of a number of different coronaviruses, some of which cause the common cold in humans and others which circulate among animals.

Experts believe COVID-19 spreads mostly between people who are in close contact and through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the department said. A person who has contracted the virus is thought to be most contagious when they're most ill with obvious symptoms.

A person may also get COVID-19 by touching a surface that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.

To avoid the virus and help prevent its spread, state health officials recommend these steps:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible.
  • Stay home if sick.
  • Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60 percent alcohol.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced a 30-day suspension of travel between the US and Europe, beginning Friday, in order to combat the spread of the virus. Wyoming health officials say it is important that the public heed travel recommendations and restrictions.

The CDC currently recommends no nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, the department said, as well as no travel on cruise ships.

Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues -- among those most vulnerable to the disease -- should consider avoiding situations with increased risk for virus transmission. Examples include avoiding non-essential travel such as long plane trips, and avoiding crowded places.

“Our state has been planning for this situation for weeks and we will continue our coordinated efforts to address this threat,” Governor Mark Gordon said. “I pledge to work closely with our state agencies, federal partners and local officials to ensure we are implementing all the necessary steps to protect public health.”

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