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Health

Maine CDC Says Traveling Salesperson Has Been Linked To Cluster Of Maine COVID-19 Cases

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Nick Woodward
/
Maine Public

Maine Center for Disease Control Director Dr. Nirav Shah revealed Thursday that a traveling salesperson has been linked to a cluster of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state and possibly other states, as well. Shah's comments shed the most light so far on how the novel coronavirus has spread in Maine, which now has 560 confirmed cases and 16 fatalities.

Understanding how the coronavirus is spreading in Maine relates to the state's capacity to do contact tracing, a process in which epidemiologists and researchers conduct exhaustive interviews to track how people become infected.

Responding to questions from Maine Public Radio, Shah said the state has performed robust contact tracing and that many of the cases were intrahousehold, that is, infections between family members or people living together.

But then he added this: "We detected a cluster of cases that were linked to an individual whose job is to be a traveling salesperson. And this traveling salesperson visited a particular establishment in Maine and had a series of meetings."

Shah was careful not to identify the person or even the person's gender, citing confidentiality concerns. He did say that the salesperson is believed to have infected several other people while in Maine before moving on and continuing to spread COVID-19 in other states.

"We reached out to those states, and it turns out that this individual seems to have had a pattern of spreading COVID-19 across a number of states," Shah says.

Shah did not say how many people may have been infected by the salesperson in Maine or elsewhere. It's unclear whether the salesperson was exhibiting symptoms while doing so.

Robert Long, a spokesperson for Maine CDC, says the salesperson was showing symptoms when contacted by Maine epidemiologists for tracing purposes. But that doesn't necessarily mean the person was symptomatic while spreading COVID-19. Also, the federal CDC has noted that the disease can spread while people are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

Contact tracing has allowed researchers in Chicago to identify a birthday party and a funeral that resulted in 16 additional confirmed or probable cases and three deaths, according to the federal CDC. And researchers recently announced that most cases in New York originated from travelers arriving from Europe.