With recent cases of 2019 novel coronavirus reported in several countries including the U.S., health officials are watchful for potential cases. The Minnesota Department of Health has posted background information on its website (2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
Media confirmed reports show the virus has shown up in nearby Chicago after a 60-year-old woman was diagnosed with the “bug,” which was first discovered in central China.
Today, MDH issued a statement to provide details about activities related to the outbreak.
While the available information suggests a low immediate health risk for the general public, we consider any new infectious disease a serious concern and we are taking precautions.
Based on what has been learned from past outbreaks – including outbreaks of related coronaviruses – we know that finding cases quickly and responding to them effectively is key. That rapid response helps ensure that the ill person receives the care they need, and it lessens the chance of other people getting sick. Fortunately, Minnesota has a strong disease surveillance system in place that includes partnerships with hospital and clinic systems as well as local health departments.
This week we asked Minnesota health care providers to alert us if a person with recent travel to Wuhan, China, becomes sick with respiratory symptoms. When cases are reported, laboratory samples are collected and submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmatory testing. This testing can take several days.
We have had several calls from providers and have followed up on the cases, including sending samples to CDC. If at any point the testing confirmed a case of novel coronavirus in a Minnesota resident, the available details and protective recommendations would be shared with both the affected parties and the public as quickly as possible.
When a new disease is circulating, it’s natural for people to ask what they can do to protect themselves and their families. The best guidance at this point is to take the same precautions recommended for avoiding colds and flu: People should stay home when they are sick, cover their cough and practice good hand washing. If you are planning a trip to China, keep an eye on the news and be aware of this evolving situation. If you have recently returned from a trip to China and are feeling sick, call your health care provider and let them know of your travel and symptoms.