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Coronavirus outbreak: Should Minnesotans be concerned?

There have only been two confirmed cases in the U.S. so far.
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The Minnesota Department of Health has issued guidance to Minnesotans regarding the current outbreak of the coronavirus.

The Minnesota Department of Health says that based on the current available information, there is a "low immediate health risk" for the general public, though the health department says it considers any new infectious disease a "serious concern and are taking precautions."

"Minnesota is not among the states receiving many travelers from the area of China associated with this outbreak," MDH commissioner Jan Malcolm said at a Friday press conference.

However, given that the second case in the U.S. was confirmed in someone traveling through Chicago O'Hare Airport, and with human-to-human transmission having been confirmed in China, "it is possible we could see one or more" confirmed cases in Minnesota.

Of the 63 suspected cases to go along with the two confirmed cases in the U.S. so far, two of them are in Minnesota.

"The best recommendation we can give is take the same general precautions when avoiding cold and flu: Stay home when you are sick, cover your cough, and practice good hand washing," Malcolm said.

Minnesotans are also being advised to get a flu shot.

Malcolm did say that Minnesota will likely see increased testing for coronavirus, with the state taking precautions by testing for the virus in the event someone exhibits flu-like or pneumonia-like symptoms.

The MDH put out a health alert to providers across the state, informing staff to be aware of what to look out for in patients, and says it has a robust system in place to identify and limit the spread of any infections.

Once a suspect case has been identified, health officials will interview the patient about their symptoms, their travel history, and their day-to-day activities and contact.

Suspect cases will be isolated or told to isolate themselves, while the health department ensures they have access to food and medical care, while health officials monitor those who have had contact with them.

The MDH also says the main risk is from those who have traveled to China, and it should not stop anyone from flying to Chicago or Seattle – where the first case presented – as it's not widespread in the U.S. community like it is in China.

About the coronavirus

The coronavirus broke out in the Chinese city of Wuhan, which is now under a travel ban along with other parts of the Asian nation affecting a total population of 35 million.

There have been 800 cases confirmed in China, 25 of them fatal, and isolated cases reported in several other countries mostly in Asia, but also in the U.S.

It's referred to as a "novel coronavirus" because it's a strain that has never been seen before.

At the moment, the data isn't available to determine the actual severity, though the MDH notes that it's "absolutely" less contagious than measles, which is an airborne virus.

Like other viruses from the coronavirus family – ie. SARS – this coronavirus has come from animals, with many of those infected either having worked or frequently shopped in a wholesale seafood market that also sold live and recently slaughtered animals, per The Guardian.

The virus causes pneumonia, and in severe cases it can lead to organ failure.

Antibiotics don't work as it's a viral pneumonia, and those who have died so far typically were already in poor health or those susceptible to flu-like illnesses.

Others with stronger immune systems have been able to recover.

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