New Hampshire health officials say approximately 150 people are currently being monitored amid growing concerns of the possible spread of COVID-19.
In a press conference on Sunday, officials said they are awaiting confirmatory test results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for two people who are presumed to have contracted the illness.
These two new diagnoses bring the state's total cases to four.
One of the cases is an adult male from Grafton County who had contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 at Hope Bible Fellowship at 114 Seminary Hill in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, at the morning service on March 1.
"The individual that was at the church service on March 1, at that time, did not know that they were infected with COVID-19," epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said during the press conference on Sunday. "This church service was just before they had developed symptoms and had not been identified for testing at that point."
The second patient presumed to have the virus is an adult male from Rockingham County who officials say traveled to Italy and then began exhibiting symptoms consistent with the virus.
The church has cancelled services and is working with officials to advise everyone who attended either a coffee social at 9 a.m. or the worship services on that day to stay home and avoid contact with others through March 15, while monitoring for symptoms of the disease. An estimated 60 people had attended the church services that day.
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Both patients are isolated at home and being monitored by public health professionals.
Officials are currently working to identify and notify individuals who may have been in close contact with either man.
“These new cases broaden our investigation and our public health team is working to try and prevent further community transmission,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan. “It is important for anybody in our communities who may have fever or other respiratory symptoms to practice social distancing and stay home when ill. We continue to work with hospitals and community organizations to respond to this challenging global COVID-19 outbreak.”
Testing was done for both patients Saturday at the state's public health laboratories.
The state said as of Sunday, 50 people had been tested for COVID-19. Two Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center employees were the first to test positive for the virus.
The state announced its first coronavirus patient on March 3. The man had attended an event at the White River Junction's Engine Room tied to Dartmouth business school despite advice to remain isolated.
The second positive patient had been in contact with the first patient at the event.
Health officials are urging the public to take the following precautions to avoid spreading illness:
- Stay home and avoid public places when sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Avoid being within 6 feet of someone who is sick.
- Avoid sharing objects that may transmit saliva.
- Disinfect touched surfaces frequently.