New data indicates first Ohio coronavirus cases in Miami Valley

Without a test while actively infectious, it is difficult to pinpoint when exactly a person was sick.

The first person in Ohio known to be sick from the coronavirus outbreak is now suspected to be a local woman with an illness onset in January.

While the data is not definitive because the case was not confirmed while the person had an active infection, blood tests indicate there could have been six people in Ohio with coronavirus infections which is an earlier timeframe than Ohio’s first lab-confirmed coronavirus cases reported March 9.

New antibody tests indicated that a Miami County woman in her 70s was sick with her illness onset estimated Jan. 7 and a Montgomery County woman in her 70s with an onset date around Jan. 13.

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Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health, reported Monday that based on new antibody testing, there were six probable Ohio coronavirus cases from January.

While the state is tracking cases of people who are test positive while still infected, officials have also been including “probable” cases, such as people with positive antibody tests whose cases are recorded on Ohio’s epidemic curve based on the estimated start of the person’s illness.

Along with the two previous cases, the antibody tests indicate a Richland County woman in her 40s was infected with the virus as of Jan. 18, a Summit County man in his 50s was ill Jan. 20, a Miami County man in his 60s was ill Jan. 26, and a Warren County man in his 50s was ill Jan. 27. In addition, a Champaign County man in his 60s had an illness onset date estimated Feb. 1.

The state did not have more information Tuesday on whether the people believed to be ill in January had a travel history where they could have caught the illness elsewhere or whether they appear to have caught the virus while in the local community (which would indicate even more local people infected at the time).

Miami County Public Health said that when it receives a positive antibody test, the patient is contacted and interviewed, which many times will reveal a patient had symptoms in the past similar to COVID 19.

“We note the onset date of all symptoms as part of the case investigation and part of our data collection and tracking. This should not be taken as a confirmation that individuals had an active COVID 19 infection at a specific time in the past,” the health department said in a statement. “Please note that with COVID 19, many individuals may be asymptomatic when they have active infection. Determining when an individual had an active COVID 19 infection based off an antibody test can be difficult and information related to this should be understood in that context.”

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Antibody tests look for signs of an immune response signaling someone recovered from an infection by the coronavirus. These antibody tests have become increasingly available in recent weeks, though the accuracy can differ based on the testing device. The FDA on May 4 gave companies with antibody tests 10 days to prove accuracy or face removal from the market.

To reduce the risk of the spread of the coronavirus, people are urged to remain at least six feet back from each other, practice frequent handwashing for 20 seconds, and wear a mask when in spaces where it is difficult to keep a social distance.

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