FLORENCE — The Pinal County Public Health Services District confirmed Friday a presumptive positive case of coronavirus.

The patient, a health care worker in her 40s, lives and works in Pinal County and is currently in stable condition in a Maricopa County hospital. She is not a known contact of any confirmed COVID-19 cases and has not traveled to any areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely. For this reason, Pinal County Public Health is treating this case as its first instance of community spread.

“Community spread refers to the spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. Just like during flu season, if you get symptoms, you need to stay home and take care of yourself,” said Dr. Shauna McIsaac, director of Pinal County Public Health. “Similar to the flu, most people will only have mild symptoms that do not require a visit to a health care provider or hospital. Individuals who are older or have underlying health conditions like chronic lung disease are at higher risk of more severe illness. Occasionally, a young, healthy person will have severe disease. Unfortunately, this woman is one of those people.”

The two previous Arizona cases involved people in metro Phoenix.

The Pinal woman’s case was the second identified through testing by a state health lab.

“I understand that this sounds concerning,” said McIsaac.. “But it's important people know that public health is prepared for community spread of flu-like illness every year.”

Washing hands with soap and water and not touching your eyes, nose or mouth continues to be the best way to decrease the spread of the virus, officials said. They also urged anyone feeling sick to stay home.

“These are three things that will be the most effective way to prevent the spread of this virus," McIsaac said.

The virus spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The symptoms are thought to appear between two and 14 days after exposure, the department said. Children appear to have milder forms of the respiratory illness and aren't at risk for “severe disease,” said  Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for disease control at Maricopa County Department of Public Health. 

“Just like the flu, the vast majority of people will have mild symptoms and completely recover without any treatment at home,” Sunenshine said.

Meanwhile, three firefighters and two ambulance workers in Scottsdale remain in quarantine at their homes after treating a patient who later tested positive for coronavirus. They have not displayed any symptoms, according to Maricopa County Public Health officials.

The man they treated last week was the state’s second patient with coronavirus.

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection with symptoms including fever, cough and shortness of breath. The vast majority of people with the disease have mild symptoms and will not require medical intervention.

COVID-19 is believed to spread mostly through respiratory droplets produced when a sick person coughs or sneezes. Currently, there is no vaccine or treatment, but treatments are being studied and a vaccine is currently under development. Individuals with COVID-19 should be provided with supportive care, including fluids or fever-reducing medication.

Since receiving the presumptive positive test result, Pinal and Maricopa counties have been working together to interview close contacts of the case and recommend symptom monitoring.

“We are moving into a public health strategy that is just like seasonal flu. We know that health care workers are exposed to people with flu and other infectious diseases all the time and therefore are at higher risk, which is why they wear personal protective equipment,” said Sunenshine. “Now that there is community spread of COVID-19, just like during flu season, it is important for everyone, especially health care workers, to stay home when they are sick to avoid exposing others.

“We are no longer recommending quarantine of exposed health care workers who don’t show any symptoms because we need our health care workforce during this response,” Sunenshine added.

Overall recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases spread through respiratory droplets are:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water is not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • 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 like doorknobs, light switches and electronic devices using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Public health officials encourage concerned individuals to follow credible sites for information about COVID-19. For up-to-date facts, visit www.pinal.gov/publichealth and http://www.Maricopa.gov/Coronavirus.