Sullivan County has first confirmed case of coronavirus

J. H. Osborne • Mar 10, 2020 at 4:13 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The coronavirus has arrived. The Tennessee Department of Health told local officials Tuesday that Sullivan County has its first confirmed case.

The case is travel-related, not a person-to-person community transmission, said Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department.

“We don’t have community transmission at this time,” May said.

May said the patient has self-isolated and the health department’s next step is to begin contact tracing. That means tracking who the patient has had contact with since returning back to the area after a trip out of the United States to a country where the coronavirus is endemic. May said the health department cannot release any further details about the patient, including any more precise a location than within Sullivan County.

May said the number of patients tested for the virus in Sullivan County is less than five, and this is the only one to come back from state labs as a confirmed positive.


Preventing spread of the virus is a priority, especially among the elderly.

The main ways to prevent spread:

1) Follow respiratory etiquette. Do not cough or sneeze on others. Do not rub your eyes.

2) Hand-washing, hand-washing, hand-washing.

3) Social distancing. Keep a 6-foot distance from others when in public. "If you're sick, stay home. It is particularly important to protect the elderly. Don't go into group or congregant settings. If you're sick, don't go to visit those in nursing homes or other medical settings."

May said health officials expect more cases to be confirmed across the state.

Who gets tested?

May said testing for the novel coronavirus is conducted only on those who have either traveled to an endemic area or those who are known to have come in contact with a patient already confirmed to have the illness. In either example, the person seeking testing must also be having symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath.


There is no vaccine and no anti-viral treatment for the coronavirus, May said. Treatment is limited to supportive care, which could include administering oxygen and/or preventing dehydration.

How bad is it?

May said the public shouldn't panic and noted 80% of patients get well with no medical care whatsoever. Another 15% may need to seek medical care and 5% of those afflicted may need intensive hospital care.

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