CORONAVIRUS

Two Iowans undergoing testing for coronavirus

No confirmed case in the state, public health officials say

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January shows the 2019 novel coronavirus
This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January shows the 2019 novel coronavirus. This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via Associated Press)

Two Iowans who recently returned to the United States from China are being tested for novel coronavirus, the state public health department announced.

Testing will take several days, but both unidentified individuals are under voluntary home confinement as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducts monitoring for the respiratory virus that has sickened thousands in China and across the world.

There have been no confirmed cases in the state of Iowa, Iowa Department of Public Health Medical Director and State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said.

Pedati declined to release any identifying information of the two individuals, including where they live or what airport they may have traveled through. She emphasized, however, that both were in isolation “with public health supervision.”

She would not say where the two Iowans are now.

“This has been a very rapidly changing situation, and we here at the Iowa Department of Public Health have been working around the clock very closely with our key partners at the local, state and federal level to share information and implement public health activities,” Pedati said in a Facebook live video Wednesday.

The state public health department has implemented recommendations from President Donald Trump’s Task Force on Coronavirus, which were announced this past week.

Iowa’s public health officials anticipate that, in implementing those recommendations, they “would likely be identifying individuals who would need monitoring and testing for the novel coronavirus,” Pedati said.

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“Travelers coming back from China are more likely to have symptoms related to a common virus such as flu, so it’s more likely we will be detecting those people because we are monitoring them more closely,” Pedati said.

IDPH Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati discusses novel coronavirus in Iowa

At an Iowa Board of Regents meeting in Urbandale Wednesday, University of Iowa Health Care Vice President Brooks Jackson told regents the UI campus is monitoring seven travelers from China for signs of the coronavirus. None are sick or symptomatic, but they are self-monitoring, Jackson said.

The Cedar Rapids Community School District also put out a statement Wednesday morning, stating school officials were aware of the concern and worry about the coronavirus.

“We want to assure parents and guardians that we are in regular contact with Linn County Public Health and would be notified if a case of novel coronavirus is officially diagnosed in the state,” according to the statement. “Linn County Public Health would lead the response in our schools if a student, staff or visitor were to test positive for novel coronavirus.”

So far, 12 cases have been confirmed in six states by U.S. public health officials. California has six cases, Illinois has two confirmed cases and Wisconsin, Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington state each reported on case.

The World Health Organization estimated as of Wednesday, more than 24,500 confirmed cases worldwide. Nearly 24,400 of those cases have been confirmed in China, the origin of the outbreak.

As of Wednesday, the death toll is 491 in China, according to the World Health Organization.

The coronavirus first was identified in Wuhan, in Central China, in December, and global public health officials have been closely monitoring the outbreak since.

The virus is a new — or novel — version of coronavirus that has not been previously identified.

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Public health officials say coronaviruses commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold. However, this new variation is not the same as the coronavirus that causes MERS and SARS.

The CDC officials said they are working to understand the novel coronavirus, but have found it is capable of spreading from person to person.

The CDC has recommended Americans avoid all non-essential travel to China. The U.S. State Department also implemented a do-not-travel advisory to China on Jan. 30.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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Our most important Coronavirus coverage is free to the public.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, please donate. Your contribution will support news resources to cover the impact of the pandemic on our local communities.

All donations are tax-deductible.