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Fifth COVID-19 Illinois Patient, A College Student, Released From Rush Medical Center

CHICAGO (CBS) – The fifth Illinois patient with the novel coronavirus, a college student who had just returned from Italy, has been released from the hospital after being treated for a day for COVID-19.

The fifth patient was treated in isolation at Rush University Medical Center and was released Friday afternoon to home quarantine. He's a college student from Vanderbilt University, who told his student newspaper that he's fielding calls "every 30 minutes" asking about "every person I've been in contact with."

Health care workers are taking precautions to keep COVID-19 contained, such as having infected patients go into separate entrances and stay in isolated rooms. That, along with tracking down those people who have in contact with the sick, isn't that simple, one expert said.

This is the same protocol used for the other four Illinois patients, who are now out of the hospital and recovering.

"At this point, we are still in a containment strategy," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, of the Illinois Department of Public Health. "CDC has been on site with us doing the contact tracing and investigations."

Infectious disease expert, Dr. Sarah Cobey, says tracking down the first patient in Illinois is no easy task. It's likely there are people who had a mild case of the virus and didn't know it. "In all likelihood there have been multiple introductions into the state." she said.

That brings into question the effectiveness of travel screenings. The college student just infected had taken a flight to Chicago O'Hare airport from Florence, Italy.

"We know that viruses fly," said Ezike. 'They can come from wherever they are to new locations; they don't have to stop at customs and be kept out."

Research from the University of Chicago and UCLA argues that travel screening for COVID-19 is mostly ineffective. So many people travel, especially through hubs like O'Hare, and people can carry the virus for a long time before they even show symptoms. That means many travelers can pass screenings and still be contagious.

"The disease presents really differently for different people," said Cobey. "Some people appear to be infected but show very few symptoms if any."

Cobey says if more cases pop up, tactics will likely shift, with less emphasis on contact tracing and more resources spent on managing the spread of the disease.

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