A physician with FirstHealth of the Carolinas has tested positive for coronavirus, the Pinehurst-based health care system confirmed Wednesday.
Dr. John Byron, an OB/GYN with Southern Pines Women’s Health Center, learned of his positive test Wednesday. He first exhibited symptoms on Tuesday, FirstHealth said in a news release.
He last had contact with patients on the morning of Friday, March 13. It is believed that the infection was acquired during a recent trip to Germany.
Upon learning that Germany was added to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of high alert countries, Byron “appropriately began self-quarantine,” FirstHealth said.
“We believe that Dr. Byron would have been in an early incubation period and less likely to be infectious during contact with patients and staff,” said Dr. Paul Jawanda, FirstHealth infectious disease expert.
(Editor's Note: Dr. Byron's identity was willingly released by FirstHealth of the Carolinas in an effort to be transparent with the community and because he had recently seen patients. The news release was not issued in response to requests.)
FirstHealth has also consulted with the N.C. Division of Public Health state epidemiologist, who provided additional guidance regarding possible risk to patients and staff.
“The state epidemiologist says there was minimal exposure risk to patients who had contact with Dr. Byron,” said Jayne Lee, a registered nurse and FirstHealth’s director of infection control and prevention. “Out of an abundance of caution, we are informing all patients and staff who had potential contact with Dr. Byron during the week of March 9.”
Jawanda and other infectious disease experts believe coronavirus is most infectious during early symptoms, or perhaps one to two days prior to the onset of those symptoms.
“Patient and staff contact with Dr. Byron falls outside of this window, which makes us optimistic of the extremely low risk to patients and staff,” Jawanda said.
Meanwhile Moore County Health Department staff are monitoring the individual who tested positive and will follow up with anyone who is identified as a close contact, according to a news release Wednesday. It says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines “close contact” as being within six feet for 10 minutes or more.
“With increased testing, more cases are expected,” said Moore County Health Director Robert Wittmann. “We would advise all Moore County residents to continue to follow all recommended control measures to protect themselves and others from the virus."