More Iowans are being tested for the novel coronavirus that has begun appearing in increasing numbers in the United States, according to state public health officials.
The Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed Monday two more Iowans are being tested for COVID-19, a respiratory virus that appeared for the first time in December. The department has not released any other details about these individuals, but a spokeswoman said they were tested in accordance to guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State officials estimate a 24-hour turnaround time on these tests, Public Health spokeswoman Polly Carver-Kimm said.
Previous tests for the virus in three other Iowans were negative, according to state officials.
The State Hygienic Lab, the Coralville-based public health laboratory, was authorized to perform COVID-19 tests as of last week, according to a University of Iowa spokeswoman.
A positive result would need to be confirmed by the CDC. Carver-Kimm said the department would announce a preliminary positive result before receiving CDC confirmation.
At this time, the risk to Iowans remains low, Carver-Kimm said.
Officials are encouraging Iowans to take everyday public health precautions at this time, which include covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often and staying home when sick.
Public health officials also are encouraging Iowans to prepare for any potential disruptions the virus could cause in the same way they would plan for severe weather or other events that could shake up normal plans.
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Dr. Caitlin Pedati, state medical director and epidemiologist for the department, reassured elected officials this past week that while the risk to the general public is low, the Iowa Department of Public Health is prepared for any possible outcome.
“Any time we have the emergence of new virus that’s able to infect people, this is a serious public health concern,” Pedati said Wednesday. “But I want to emphasize this is precisely the kind of concern that the state works with federal and local partners to prepare for.”
There are more than 87,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, which accounts for about 2,900 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
As of Monday, 11 states reported cases of the virus, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to more than 100, according to news reports. Six deaths as a result of the virus have been reported in the United States.
New cases of the virus across the country have fueled concerns about the potential for community-spread — that is, infection among people with no history of travel to affected areas and no contact with people known to be infected.
“It is a very quickly evolving situation and things could change,” Carver-Kimm said. “We are working closely with CDC to implement any changes they may implement.”
The department also is in regular contact with county public health agencies, which in turn are working with local hospitals and health care providers to monitor for at-risk patients and prepare for potential cases.
Five individuals who do not have symptoms of the virus but fit the criteria of being at-risk currently are being monitored by state public health. So far, 39 individuals have competed the 14-day quarantine since Feb. 3.
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