86-year-old Harford Co. woman contracts COVID-19 during trip to Turkey

Posted at 5:27 PM, Mar 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-09 17:36:30-04

BEL AIR, Md (WMAR) — It's the day they were prepared for. Not an 'if' but a 'when'. The first case of the novel Coronavirus in Harford County.

County Executive Barry Glassman said an 86-year-old woman is hospitalized after contracting the virus while traveling overseas. Governor Larry Hogan said this appears to be the first case of COVID-19 in the world to be associated with travel to Turkey.

"Public health officials report that there appears to be no community exposure," said Glassman.

That's because health officials report the woman went straight home from the airport, did not have symptoms for six days and self-isolated for six more days after showing symptoms before going to the hospital.

"During this entire time, the patient states she did not leave her house and did not come into contact with people except for her immediate family, who have shown no symptoms and are being asked to self-isolate and self-monitor for 14 days," said Harford County Health Officer Russell Moy. "We are fortunate that the patient, on her own basically, chose to take all the actions that public health officials would have routinely recommended anyway."

MORE: Gov. Hogan: Two more people test positive for coronavirus in Maryland

Moy said her initial symptoms were not respiratory, like most COVID-19 patients. She instead had fatigue and a loss of appetite. Because she did not have those symptoms on the plane or for the first six days back in Maryland, she did not fall into the CDC's criteria for a person under investigation.

However, health officials are still learning about the virus and how people can catch it. The CDC said people are thought to be most contagious when they are showing symptoms but some spread might be possible before that.

"As these cases begin to develop and the state gives us additional information on the range of influence or the range of travel of the individuals, then we will get guidance locally on what we need to do next if anything," said Glassman.

As of now, the county's public schools and government are operating as usual, with no cancellations but they are taking precautions. The Harford County Superintendent asked that no new events be scheduled, that perfect attendance awards be suspended and teachers give students plenty of opportunities to wash their hands.

Moy said residents should also be focusing on high-risk patients for COVID-19, including people 60 and older with chronic underlying medical conditions, people with compromised immune systems and those who have traveled to areas where the virus is more widespread.