By Joe Boyle
A patient being cared for at OSF HealthCare Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Evergreen Park has tested positive for novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Local public health officials confirmed this case on Friday, March 13.
An OSF Healthcare spokesperson said they will continue to share information with the public regarding the outbreak as soon as it becomes available. Information will also be posted on the OSF HealthCare Facebook page and Twitter account, the spokesperson said.
This news comes as Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced during a press conference Tuesday afternoon that a Chicago woman in her 60s died as a result of having coronavirus. Pritzker said the woman had health concerns and was diagnosed earlier this month. She was not a resident of a nursing home, the governor said.
Evergreen Park officials are also reporting that the staff at the Community Center said that an individual who was at the nearby Activity Center is being tested for possibly having the virus. The person was being tested at OSF Healthcare Little Company as of Monday.
“We are just waiting on the results,” said Evergreen Park Mayor James Sexton on Tuesday morning. “The teacher of the class brought it to our attention that the person was ill. It will be at least four or five days before we know for sure. We’re hoping it was limited exposure.”
The individual was present during a class at the Activity Center, 3220 W. 98th St., a small gym near the Community Center, on Wednesday, March 11.
Village officials said they would prefer to be cautious and advise anyone who may have been in any classes on March 11 to follow the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. Anyone who attended classes that day at the facility should contact their family physician and begin a 14-day self-quarantine.
Since then, the Activity Center has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, according to village officials.
Sexton believes that, for the most part, everyone is now taking the proper precautions. He had just returned to the office after purchasing three boxes of disinfectants.
“I think everyone is being cautious,” Sexton said. “Some people might be overreacting while others are not. But I think the message has gotten through. We are wiping everything down and being careful. We will get through this.”
Illinois health officials said Tuesday as voters cast their ballots that 55 new cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the state. The latest total brings the reported number of cases in Illinois to 160.
No confirmed reports were available as of Tuesday about any patients being treated for the coronavirus at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
“This is an evolving process and we’re learning in a rapid fashion what is occurring,” said Dr. Adam Treitman, section head of infectious disease and medical director of infection control at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn. “There’s certainly no reason to panic, but it’s important to be aware and keep in touch with any updates the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) brings forward.”
As health officials work to learn more about the virus, Treitman recommends everyone to take normal precautions for staying healthy, such as washing your hands frequently.
“Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some causing respiratory illness in people and others circulating among animals including camels, cats and bats,” a news release from the CDC reads. “Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people, such as has been seen with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).”
The University of Chicago Medicine, which includes the south suburbs, has been preparing for the coronavirus since mid-January, according to a hospital spokesperson.
Dr. Emily Landon, infectious disease physician for the University of Chicago Medicine, said that the coronavirus, or COVID-19, has spread worldwide since it was first detected in Wuhan, China in December.
“As an infectious disease specialist and hospital epidemiologist, my job is to prepare for outbreaks such as COVID-19 while caring for patients at our academic medical center on Chicago’s South Side,” Landon said. “The extent of this outbreak is rapidly evolving and risk assessment changes daily.”
Landon added that coronavirus is the name for a large set of illnesses, including the common cold and other respiratory infections. The term “novel” coronavirus means it is a new form of the virus, she said. On Jan. 9, public health researchers identified the strain as the novel coronavirus, which was tied to a specific “wet market” in Wuhan, where they sell fish and other live animals, Landon said.
“The first known patient in the U.S. contracted the virus while traveling in other countries or after exposure to someone who had been to China or one of the affected areas,” Landon said. “This is concerning because it suggests the illness may be spreading across communities for which the infection is unknown. We don’t know how severe it will be, but it may cause significant disruptions in our daily lives.”