“We currently have two specimens that are at CDC for testing,” state Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann told reporters at a press conference on Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been “inundated with specimens” so Minnesota officials aren’t sure how long it will be before they get the samples back. In general, similar tests take several days to get back.
Both patients traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the disease. They were both isolated at home.
“These individuals have not been ill enough to require hospitalization. They’ve had mild illness,” Ehresmann said.
Officials have identified people who were in contact with both patients and are following up with them to see if they had symptoms.
The situation in the state is considered low-risk, officials said, but people should be vigilant if they’ve recently traveled to affected areas of China or been in contact with anyone who has.
The Minnesota Department of Health said in a Jan. 24 statement that information from past outbreaks shows 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,” it said.
Health care providers across the state were told to alert the department if a person who recently traveled to Wuhan became sick with respiratory symptoms.
If any samples test positive, the public will be told as quickly as possible, officials said.
The department said people should stay at home when they’re sick, cover their mouths when coughing, and frequently wash their hands. Anyone planning a trip to China should be aware of the situation. If they just returned from China and feel sick, they should call their doctor and report the symptoms and travel history.
Federal officials have told Americans not to travel to Wuhan and to be cautious when traveling to other parts of China. Hubei Province, where Wuhan is located, has around a dozen cities on lockdown as Chinese officials try to contain the outbreak.
Two cases have been confirmed in the United States: one in Washington state and one in Chicago, Illinois. The CDC is investigating 63 patients across 22 states; 11 have tested negative so far.
Cases have been confirmed in Japan, South Korea, Nepal, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.
France confirmed cases on Friday, the first in Europe.