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5 Houston-area patients being treated for travel-related cases of coronavirus

All of the patients are believed to have contracted the virus during a trip to Egypt last month.

HOUSTON — Two people in northwest Harris County tested positive for the coronavirus, according to Harris County Public Health.

Two other men have "presumptive positive" cases. One in Harris County and another within the city of Houston.

The positive tests have been verified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The presumptive positive tests are yet to be confirmed by the CDC.

All the patients contracted the virus while overseas and officials said they were all apart of a group that traveled to Egypt in February. There is no evidence of community spread.

"All the cases in the Houston area have international travel in common and we've been actively monitoring these individuals since they were identified as being at-risk," Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said. "I encourage Houstonians to limit international travel for the time being and heed the advice of public health officials about healthy hygiene habits. If you are feeling sick, stay at home. But do not be paralyzed by fear."

The man and woman who tested positive live in the unincorporated area of northwest Harris County, outside the City of Houston.

One of the patients who tested positive is a staffer at Rice University who had self-quarantined on Feb. 29. The employee had no interaction with undergraduates students and only went in one building on campus, the university says.

The presumptive positive case in Harris County is a man between 60 and 70 years old who lives outside the city of Houston. He is currently in the hospital. His case was also acquired abroad and is related to the other cases.

The presumptive positive case within the city of Houston is also a man between 60 and 70. City officials said he has a history of international travel.

Fort Bend County also reported a presumptive positive case on Wednesday.

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“Since January, we have been at an elevated level of readiness to prepare for and respond to a positive case here in Harris County,” said Harris County Public Health Executive Director, Dr. Umair A Shah, MD, MPH. “We will continue to take action by identifying potential contacts and monitoring them closely.”

HCPH officials said they understand residents will be concerned about local cases, but said 80% of people who have coronavirus experience mild to moderate symptoms and fully recover.

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Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. People at higher risk for serious complications are the elderly and those with underlying health conditions.

“The best tools to fight the spread of this illness are facts, not fear,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo. “Residents should know that we have been leaning forward to make sure our response to this illness continues to be proactive and coordinated with a wide array of local, state and federal officials."

If you do feel sick and believe you may have been exposed to COVID-19, contact your health care provider or a hospital immediately. Describe your symptoms and travel history. If they recommend testing, go as soon as possible to protect yourself and those around you. Testing is confidential. HCPH does not release information about suspected cases to encourage people to get tested and many people test negative.

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Help prevent the spread of coronavirus with the same simple steps used to protect against colds and flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Keeping a sick child at home prevents the spread of illness in the school and community and allows your child an opportunity to rest and recover.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

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