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Wisconsin Investigates Possible Coronavirus Cases

David Ryder/Getty Images
Dr. Scott Lindquist, Washington state epidemiologist for communicable disease, speaks during a press conference about the first confirmed U.S. case of a virus known as the 2019 novel coronavirus.

Wisconsin has referred six active investigations of coronavirus to the federal Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC). That’s according to the state Department of Health Services (DHS). It says one test has come back negative, the other results are pending.

As of Monday, the novel coronavirus has sickened roughly 1,000 people and has contributed to at least 80 deaths in China.

READ: As China's Coronavirus Cases Rise, U.S. Agencies Map Out Domestic Containment Plans

DHS says the cases referred to the CDC come from sites around Wisconsin. The department would not release specific locations.

On Monday afternoon, DHS officials said that they expect more cases to be reported by doctors and individuals.

On the DHS conference call with media, Dr. Ryan Westergaard said they don’t necessarily think tests will be positive. "Cases of the virus being transmitted from person to person have been reported outside the United States, but so far, there's not been any case of person to person transmission in the United States. This is an area that's being monitored very closely," he said.

Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and lower respiratory infection.

They can appear within a day of being infected, or up to two weeks later.

Westergaard said people with those symptoms, who’ve recently traveled to or near the city of Wuhan, China, should stay isolated from others and call the doctor to ask whether to go into the office for a visit.

Respiratory disease epidemiologist Tom Haupt said the coronavirus doesn’t have "perfectly distinct symptoms." He said they can be similar to what people experience with influenza or other viruses.

"That's why it's so important that we get a travel history from these people as quickly as possible to try to put the connection together epidemiologically to make sure that they are tested," Haupt said.

According to DHS, in order for people to protect themselves from the virus or stop its spread, they should wash their hands and cover their mouths when sneezing and coughing. And, if someone is caring for a person who’s showing signs that they might be sick with coronavirus, they can wear a surgical mask for additional protection.

No Wisconsin airports are screening travelers at this time, DHS shared. Screenings are taking place at larger airports in places like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. There, people who’ve traveled from the Wuhan area are being given information on how to identify whether they have the virus.

Tom Haupt said it appears that kind of outreach has been successful. "Most of the cases in the country's statewide and countrywide have been people who are self monitoring and come down with some symptoms that have made calls before they go into their healthcare provider. So I think that has been working," he said.

State health officials also pointed out that coronavirus isn’t rare. They said, "Seasonal coronavirus activity typically increases in Wisconsin this time of year, along with influenza and other respiratory viruses [but] attention is heightened in this outbreak because it is a novel, or new, form of the virus."

Olivia Richardson
Olivia Richardson became WUWM's Eric Von Fellow in October 2019.
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