Information about the the new coronavirus outbreak is evolving and changes quickly. It can be hard to keep up, and we know there is also misinformation circulating.

To make sure you have the most accurate information, we encourage you to visit the Minnesota Department of Health website. They are closely monitoring the situation and updating information for Minnesotans as it is available: https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/index.html

What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They are estimated to cause about a third of all cases of the common cold. The most common forms can cause mild to moderate illness in people. So what is the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV)? It is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus that has not been found in people before. Because this is a new virus, there are still things we do not know, such as how severe the illness can be, how well it is transmitted between people, and other features of the virus.

Information we have at this time suggests a low immediate health risk for the general public. As with any new virus, it must be taken very seriously and is an evolving situation. We know information is changing quickly and that misinformation is circulating. The Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s websites are the best places to get the most accurate information.

What do we know?

The new coronavirus is an outbreak that began in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and has been declared a public health emergency by the World Health Organization and the CDC.

As of Feb. 10, 2020, the virus is present in 28 countries and 12 cases have been confirmed in six states including one in Wisconsin. There have been two reported death outside of mainland China — one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines due to this virus.

What can you do?

When a new disease is circulating, it is natural to ask what people can do to protect themselves and their families. The best guidance at this point is to take the same precautions recommended for avoiding colds and flu. As the coronavirus situation unfolds, it is important to remember that Influenza remains a bigger concern in Minnesota.

As of Feb. 1, 2020, influenza is widespread. In Minnesota, this already includes 1,656 hospitalizations and 42 deaths, including 1 child. The CDC estimates that influenza will result between estimated 210,000 to 370,000 hospitalizations and estimated 12,000 to 30,000 deaths this flu season just in the United States. If you have not yet, it is not too late to get a flu shot. To learn where you can get one, you can visit: https://vaccinefinder.org.

It is always important that everyone follow basic prevention practices to reduce the spread of all viruses including influenza, coronavirus and other viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your sleeve – not in your hands

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick

  • Stay home from school, work and activities if you are ill

  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces

Also, note, anyone who recently traveled to China, who experiences fever, cough, or other acute illness should contact a health care provider as soon as possible and mention your recent travel.

What are state and local health officials doing?

Health officials around the world and in the United States, including Minnesota, are monitoring the situation carefully and working hard to learn more about the virus.

Goodhue County Public Health has been in contact and is working in partnership with the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH). MDH is in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as other partners to share information.

Information has been shared with health care providers around the state on current recommendations for screening and testing for coronavirus.

Minnesota has a history of responding to infectious diseases. This is an evolving situation, so information and recommendations will likely change. We will continue to learn more in the coming days and share new information as it is available.