A physician with FirstHealth of the Carolinas has tested positive for COVID-19. OB/GYN physician John Byron, M.D., learned of his positive test on Wednesday, March 18. Byron, of Southern Pines Women’s Health Center, first exhibited symptoms on Tuesday, March 17.
He last had contact with patients on the morning of Friday, March 13. It is believed that the infection was acquired related to recent travel to Germany. Upon learning that Germany was added to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s list of high alert countries, Dr. Byron began self-quarantine.
“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,” FirstHealth infectious disease expert Paul Jawanda, M.D., said.
FirstHealth has also consulted with the North Carolina 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,” FirstHealth’s director of infection control and prevention, Jayne Lee, R.N., said. “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 COVID-19 is most infectious during early symptoms, and 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.
FirstHealth urges everyone to take measures to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Practice social distancing whenever possible, avoid crowds of 10 people or more and do the following:
Wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time;
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
Avoid close contact with people who are ill;
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze;
Do not reuse tissue after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose;
Clean and disinfect surfaces that are frequently touched;
For more information about the coronavirus and to read the latest guidance on keeping yourself and others safe, visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.