Wisconsin health officials confirmed Monday they are investigating six possible cases of coronavirus in different locations around the state. Tests were done based on travel history and whether they had symptoms of the mysterious virus which has killed 80 people in China and sickened five in the United States.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 26 states have a total of 110 people under investigation for possible infection of the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV. But so far no one has tested positive for the virus in Wisconsin.
"We do not have any confirmed cases in Wisconsin," said Wisconsin Health Officer Jeanne Ayers in a call with reporters. "We are just working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on identifying anyone who we should test."
Last week, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville revealed that six exchange students had arrived on campus from China and were screened at O’Hare International Airport. Health officials wouldn't say if any of the students are among those who were tested. Of the cases sent to the CDC for testing, one has come back negative. The other cases are pending.
"It is more than likely that we will have more cases that are identified that meet the criteria for testing over the next few days and weeks," said Tom Haupt, respiratory epidemiologist with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.
Screening for possible coronavirus is being done at five airports around the United States for travelers coming from China. On Monday, the U.S. State Department advised people to reconsider traveling to China, elevating the travel advisory to China to Level 3.
State health officials said they don’t expect to do health screenings at Wisconsin airports and stressed the risk is low at this time.
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"Given what we know at this time, influenza virus is a more imminent risk to the health of individuals in the state," said Wisconsin’s chief medical officer, Dr. Ryan Westergaard.
The five confirmed cases of the Wuhan coronavirus in the U.S. are in four states: Arizona, California, Washington state and Illinois. No person to person transmission has been confirmed in the U.S., according to the CDC and Westergaard, who urged people to wash their hands and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer on surfaces that are touched a lot.
Some Wisconsin stores which stock face masks and hand sanitizer are getting low on supplies or have even sold out.
"I can’t speak to specific numbers, but we are seeing a much greater demand in our stores with the onset of the coronavirus. We continually monitor for these types of situations to ensure we have sufficient supplies and can meet customer demand," said Alex Brown, spokesperson for Walgreens drugstore chain which has its corporate offices in Waukegan, Illinois.
State health officials say standard surgical masks can protect from respiratory droplets from an infected person through coughing or sneezing, which is how the virus is believed to be transmitted. Federal health officials are still trying to determine how contagious this coronavirus is.
The CDC believes symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus may take anywhere from two days to two weeks after exposure to show.