Health officials have said for some time they expected COVID-19, which causes mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms in most people who contract it, to appear in the Rochester area.

The first coronavirus infection in western and central New York was confirmed late Wednesday night in a Rochester-area person, Monroe County officials announced.

The test results likely have already triggered an aggressive attempt to track the person’s contacts and get them into quarantine to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The patient who tested positive for the virus was in isolation at home and "recovering nicely," County Executive Adam Bello said in a news release. The person has no connection to students currently in quarantine at the College at Brockport.

Additional details were provided at a press conference Thursday morning with County Executive Adam Bello, Mayor Lovely Warren and county health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza. Dr. Mendoza said:

The individual traveled from Rome to JFK on Tuesday, and then ground transport to Rochester. He arrived in Rochester Tuesday night.

Dr. Mendoza said that an investigation is ongoing and more details would be released.

Mendoza said this case is not an example of local transmission.

The department has tracked the man's highest risk contacts, they are non-symptomatic, and will be isolated and put under surveillance for symptoms.

They are confident there is not a significant risk to public health, and that no one should avoid specific places or areas in the Rochester area.

Mendoza said that the whole community should reconsider gatherings of more than 50 people, especially where they involve first responders.

Nursing homes should reconsider their visitor protocols.

"Gatherings are risky," he said, but there are no plans to close down businesses in the area.

Health officials have said for some time they expected COVID-19, which causes mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms in most people who contract it, to appear in the Rochester area.

The person diagnosed Wednesday is not necessarily the first in Monroe County to contract the virus. He or she was just the first such person to have tested positive.

Laboratory testing for the virus has rolled out slowly, nationwide and in New York. Testing didn't become more readily available until the last week or so.

The discovery of the first Rochester-area case, even if health officials determine it didn't result in local spread of the disease, undoubtedly will heighten awareness and concern about the possibility of community spread of the virus.

Given the precautions being taken around large gatherings, Rochester's St. Patrick's Day Parade has been suspended, Mendoza said.

Cases of COVID-19 have been identified in countless other American communities and in 100 nations around the world. The virus likely has been spreading from person to person in some U.S. cities for weeks.

Three other Monroe residents had previously tested negative for the novel coronavirus.

As of mid-day Wednesday, 216 people in New York had tested positive for the coronavirus. Of that number, 121 were in Westchester County, one of the nation's worst hotbeds for the infectious pathogen. No cases had been confirmed farther west than Ulster and Saratoga counties until Wednesday night.

Just over 1,300 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the United States, with 38 of those people dying from the virus.

Medical experts say the virus is a cause for deep concern but not for panic. About 80 percent of people who have confirmed COVID-19 had symptoms that were no worse than a minor case of pneumonia.

"It causes far more mild illness than severe illness. This may ultimately behave like a very bad flu. That’s the context in which we should be thinking about it," Dr. Paul Graman, the hospital epidemiologist at UR Medicine's Strong Memorial Hospital, told a group of physicians at a March 4 talk.

Initial symptoms of infection often are mild aches and pains and a cough. Fever and stomach distress also can occur.

About 20 percent of those who contract COVID-19 become seriously ill and may require hospitalization. A study in China, where the virus was first observed in December, found that 1 to 2 percent of patients will die.

Older people, people with suppressed immune systems and people with pre-existing health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and asthma fare worse than others, that study found.

The first people who tested positive for the virus in the United States, in January, acquired it while living or traveling in Asia. But by late February, public-health officials reported the first person-to-person transmission in the Pacific Northwest.

As federal restrictions were eased and testing became more common, cases began popping up in one state after another. The first New York was reported Feb. 29, the day after the state Department of Health was cleared to conduct its own testing for coronavirus.

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