Three more cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus infection have been confirmed in Georgia – one in a hospitalized Fulton County resident, according to the state Department of Public Health. That makes five confirmed cases total, three of them in Fulton.

DPH said in a March 7 press release that the “overall risk of COVID-19 to the general public remains low and there is no evidence of community spread of COVID-19 in Georgia at this time.”

State officials announced on March 2 that the first known COVID-19 cases in Georgia had been found in two Fulton County residents, who were experiencing “mild symptoms” and were in isolation with family members. One of the residents had traveled to Italy, where thousands are confirmed as infected and dozens have died, according to media reports.

As for the latest Fulton resident confirmed to have COVID-19, “The source of this individual’s exposure is unclear at this time,” the DPH press release said.

The other two newly confirmed cases are a Cobb County resident who recently returned from Italy and is now “isolated at home,” and a Polk County resident who is hospitalized, according to DPH. The DPH initially misreported the Polk County resident as from Floyd County.

In addition, the DPH is awaiting a test to confirm an initial positive test for COVID-19 in a Gwinnett County resident. “The individual recently returned from Italy and was self-monitoring at home, and is now isolated at home,” DPH said.

“DPH is prepared to mitigate the spread of this virus in our state, and we are aggressively working to identify anyone who may have had contact with these individuals,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Kathleen E. Toomey in the press release. “Despite these new cases, the overall risk of COVID-19 to the general public remains low; but each new case of COVID-19 in Georgia reinforces the fact we should all be practicing basic prevention measures that are extremely effective in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and all respiratory illnesses.”

An illustration created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that depicts a coronavirus. (Special)

How to prevent infection

Toomey urged all Georgians to take basic precautions that help to prevent many infectious diseases, including COVID-19. Those basics, as described by Toomey and the CDC, include:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Get a flu shot. The vaccine against the seasonal flu will not prevent COVID-19, but could prevent “serious complications” and “overburdening of the health care system” if there is a COVID-19 outbreak here, according to the state press release.

In addition, the CDC recently advised older adults and those with “severe chronic medical conditions” to “stay at home as much as possible” to avoid COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by a previously unknown type of coronavirus. It was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December and has since spread to many other countries around the world. There is not yet a vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for COVID-19, according to the Atlanta-based CDC, though several vaccines and treatments are in development. Most people infected with the disease have no or mild symptoms, but it can be fatal, especially by causing pneumonia.

Local cities and school districts are preparing for the potential spreading of the virus by taking cues from state and federal agencies, and hospitals are screening patients for symptoms.

The COVID-19 situation globally and the scientific understanding of the virus is changing rapidly. For official updates and extensive information, see the CDC’s website at CDC.gov.

Correction: An early version of this story contained incorrect information from the DPH that a resident of Floyd County was hospitalized with COVID-19; the resident is actually from Polk County.