Iowa confirmed its first three presumptive cases of the novel coronavirus, health officials said on March 8.
The announcement was made by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds during a news conference on Sunday night.
The patients who live in Johnson County tested presumptively positive for the coronavirus after they returned to the United States on March 3 from a cruise that traveled through Egypt, Reynolds told reporters.
“All three individuals were part of a cruise in Egypt,” Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Medical Director and State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati confirmed in a statement.
Of the three individuals who tested positive, two are aged between 61 and 80, and one is middle-aged, between 41 and 60 years old, the IDPH said. Officials added that two of the three have underlying health conditions.
According to IDPH director Gerd Clabaugh, all three individuals were on a cruise that ran from Feb. 17 to March 2, and sought medical care after feeling unwell.
None of the individuals have required hospitalization and are all currently recovering at home.
“The three are currently isolated in their homes,” Clabaugh said. “Public health and health care partners are doing what they’re trained and equipped to do to protect patients, themselves and the community.”
“While this news is concerning, it’s not cause for alarm,” Reynolds said, reported the Des Moines Register. “The most important thing that we can do right now is to remain calm, understand the situation, and stay informed in the days and weeks ahead.”
The cases will remain presumptive positive pending testing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If confirmed, they will mark the state’s first cases.
Health officials said it was not recommending Iowans at this time to take any special precautions beyond those typically taken to combat the flu, including frequent washing of the hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying at home when ill.
“Iowa has been proactively preparing for the likelihood of a positive test in Iowa with strategic planning and safety measures. While these are the first cases, it may not be the last and it’s why Iowans must continue to practice safe habits like hand washing and staying home from work when sick,” said Reynolds.
“My team is engaged through the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, as well as the nation’s governors to work collaboratively to limit the spread of COVID-19.”
Pedati said the health department is working with local officials to to assess potential exposures to others.
The news comes as the number of coronavirus deaths in the United States on Sunday grew to 22, with more than 550 people testing positive for the virus across 34 states and the District of Columbia—including 70 who were repatriated from Wuhan and the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess cruise ships.
The majority of deaths have been reported in Washington in relation to an aged-care facility. Meanwhile, Florida has reported two deaths, and California has reported one.
Coronavirus cases across the United States are expected to surge in the coming weeks as Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said Saturday that a total of 2.1. million coronavirus tests will have been shipped to non-public labs by Monday.