CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC UPDATE: NIH EMPLOYEE TESTS POSITIVE FOR COVID-19, THE VIRUS COMES EVER CLOSER

The NIH Director, Dr Francis Collins, sent e-mail to all NIH staff this morning to inform us of the first known case of an NIH staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The individual is now quarantined at home and is, thankfully, doing well. Importantly, the individual was asymptomatic while at work, which is believed to lower the risk of transmission.

After developing symptoms, the individual stayed home and called the NIH Occupational Medical Service (OMS), exactly as described in the NIH Guidance for Staff on Coronavirus. The OMS arranged testing, and the result was positive.

The OMS and the NIH Clinical Center Hospital Epidemiology Service are now actively identifying staff who work in close proximity to this individual and may have been exposed. Those individuals will be contacted and screened for symptoms as soon as possible and asked to self-quarantine at home if their exposure constitutes a significant risk of infection according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

It was always a matter of when and not if. And the when is now. Coronavirus is an equal opportunity infector; from the high and mighty to the lowly and inconsequential, and from the experts in the ivory towers to the layman on the street corners, COVID-19 fears no one and spares no one. All we can do to stop the pandemic is strict compliance with the social distancing regimen and lots of hope and prayers.

Be calm, be informed, be vigilant, be prepared, be safe.

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