KITCHENER -- The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in Huron-Perth by public health officials.

A 64-year-old man reportedly went to St. Marys Memorial Hospital on the evening of March 12 for another gastro-intestinal symptoms not related to COVID-19.

Medical Officer of Health for Huron-Perth Dr. Miriam Klassen confirmed that while the patient was in emergency, his situation changed rapidly as he developed a fever and cough.

"It was identified that COVID-19 should be considered," said Klassen. "So testing and precautions were immediately initiated at that point."

He was transferred to Stratford General Hospital and remains there in serious condition.

The patient recently travelled to Mexico, returned home on March 2, began feeling ill with unrelated symptoms on March 7, and then started self-isolating.

Public Health says they are contacting anyone they believe may have been exposed to the virus. They add that most people who needed to be contacted have been contacted already.

Klassen says a confirmed case was not unexpected and that they have been preparing for this.

"We have an incident management system team that meets regularly that's reviewing all of our prevention and infection control guidelines," said Andrew Williams, CEO of Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance. “We’ve introduced a diversion strategy where we have people screen at the door in emergencies.

“If you are there for COViD-19 and you came by car, we ask you to go back into your car and we call you in to a specific location for testing.”

Risk to Huron-Perth residents remains low, according to officials.

“This isn’t a crisis, this is something we can manage,” said St. Marys Mayor Al Strathdee. “If they follow a lot of common sense guidelines and listen, I think that we can flatten out the curve and make sure people are safe and healthy and happy.”

Children who have travelled are being asked to self-isolate and not attend daycare.

Public Health officials say community assessment centres are being planned and will be rolled out when there are capacity issues.