HONOLULU (KHON) — A man in his 60s tested positive for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) shortly after returning from a trip to Hawaii. He has not visited China recently.
The man is from the Aichi Prefecture in central Japan, and visited Maui and Oahu from January 28th to February 7th.
Health officials say the man visited Maui from January 28 through February 3. He showed no symptoms at the time.
He took Hawaiian Airlines flight HA265 from Kahului to Honolulu on Feb. 3, the same day he reported having cold-like symptoms. While on Oahu, the man stayed at the Grand Waikikian by Hilton Grand Vacations. Officials say he did not have a fever.
Hawaiian Airlines released the following statement:
Today the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked us for information regarding HA265 from Kahului to Honolulu on Feb. 3, 2020, which transported a Japanese visitor who had since become ill and, upon his return to Japan on another carrier later in the week, was diagnosed with COVID-19. We extend our sincere wishes for this gentlemen’s full recovery and are cooperating with public health agencies to support notification of passengers as they determine is necessary. We are also in the process of reaching out to crew and agents who supported this particular flight to make sure that they are healthy and supported.”Hawaiian Airlines
Shortly after returning home on February 8th, he was hospitalized with a high fever. He was then diagnosed with pneumonia, and ultimately tested positive for COVID-19.
The governor’s exact words during the news conference were “This is a serious concerns.” He adds that the state is prepared for this.
Health officials say they believe the man contracted the virus before he got here or on his way here from Japan.
“The best evidence we have suggests he was infected while he was in Japan before he came to Hawaii,” said Dr. Bruce Anderson, health department director.
The incubation period for Coronavirus is up to 14 days.
So the timeline fits that he could have been infected before leaving Japan.
Officials also stress that since the man did not have a fever while he was on either island, he was less likely to spread the infection here.
“That’s some what reassuring to us cause we know when you have fever you’re more likely to be more infectious,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “However as a precaution we are working with partners to identify potential close contacts.”
Officials say close contact means actually sitting down and having a conversation with the man, as opposed to just walking by him.
Once those people are found, they will likely be quarantined.
“Isolate them in their home or in their lodging wherever they may be for a period of 14 days so that they are not at risk for transmitting the disease to somebody else,” said health department director Dr. Bruce Anderson.
The challenge now is tracing the man’s footsteps while he was here to determine those close contacts.
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Whether or not he contracted the virus in Hawaii is still uncertain. However, according to State Epidemiologist, Dr. Sarah Park, based on what is known of the incubation period the man most likely became infected with the virus in Japan or in transit to Hawaii.
“We understand the man did not exhibit symptoms while visiting Maui earlier this month, but we are monitoring this situation,” Mayor Victorino said. “My administration is working closely with the state Department of Health to ensure the safety of residents and visitors to the County of Maui.”
Officials are still investigating so they can follow up with those he may have been exposed to. Dr. Park did confirm that the man was wearing a mask while traveling.
Earlier this week, a Hawaii resident became the state’s first mandatory quarantine case. The resident, who arrived in Honolulu Monday morning, Feb. 10 was at Hubei province, the epicenter of the contamination, several days before.