BOZEMAN HEALTH FILE

Bozeman Deaconess Hospital is shown in this Chronicle file photo. 

A patient monitored for coronavirus at Bozeman Health Deaconess Hospital doesn’t have the disease tied to the outbreak that began in China, local health officials said Friday.

The person, who was in mainland China amid the new virus’ outbreak, had been in isolation at Bozeman Health since Monday after getting sick once they returned.

The Bozeman patient is the only person in Montana so far deemed necessary to test for the illness. That’s out of 15 people the state has monitored who recently returned from China who haven’t shown any symptoms of the illness now called COVID-19.

Montana health officials said the Bozeman case shows the national system of trying to prevent the potential spread of the new strain of coronavirus is working.

“We planned for this,” said Stacy Anderson, a communicable disease specialist with the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services. “This particular scenario went just about the way we expected it to and as it was designed.”

Anyone entering the United States after traveling to China is screened for symptoms of the illness before leaving the airport.

As of Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Customs and Border personnel had screened about 35,000 people at U.S. airports with recent travel history to China.

Travelers who don’t show signs of the illness are allowed to go on to their final destination.

Anderson said before that happens, the travelers are told what symptoms to watch for over the two weeks they’re most likely to show any signs of coronavirus. State and local health departments are also told when someone is returning to their area from China.

Anderson said local health officials then connect with the traveler to once again discuss what to do if they begin to feel sick.

“That paves the way for them to get assessed safely by a medical provider if anything were to happen,” she said.

Anderson said it takes close contact for someone to be considered exposed to coronavirus — such as sitting on the same plane as someone with coronavirus rather than passing them in the airport.

Tracy Knoedler, human services director for the Gallatin City-County Health Department, said it took most of the week to get the Bozeman patient’s test because officials were waiting for results from the CDC.

She said the Bozeman patient’s test arrived at CDC’s headquarters in Georgia on Tuesday — the day after they were isolated. For now, the CDC base is the only place in the nation equipped to test for the illness.

“I’m sure they’re only able to do so many tests at a time and are getting inundated from all over the country,” Knoedler said.

The virus has stirred fear as it spread to more than two dozen countries since it began in late 2019. More than 64,400 people have been diagnosed with the illness. The majority of those cases have been in China.

As of Thursday, 15 cases of virus have been reported in the U.S. in seven states — Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. So far, 427 people have been tested for coronavirus in the country.

Health officials have said it’s likely more cases of the infection will be detected in the U.S. But they’ve said that the ratio of positive-to-negative tests show the immediate risk for people in the U.S. “is believed to be low at this time.”

Birgen Knoff, Bozeman Health system director of clinical practice and ER preparedness, said while coronavirus has a lot of attention, people are far more likely to get the flu than they are coronavirus.

Between Feb. 3 and Feb. 9, Gallatin County had 182 new confirmed cases of the flu. That’s out of 5,193 known cases of the flu in Montana since October.

In that time, the state health department recorded 239 flu-related hospitalizations and one death.

“We recommend flu shots for people who are appropriate to get them,” Knoff said.

She said people can also protect themselves by washing their hands, staying home if sick, cleaning surfaces frequently, “all the things people do trying to prevent the flu or any other illness.”

For more information and for updates on the potential of coronavirus in Montana, visit https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt.

Katheryn Houghton can be reached at khoughton@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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