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Coronavirus tests negative on 2 Minnesota patients being monitored

Health officials said the two people were being isolated at home, and their symptoms did not require hospitalization.

ST PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) says tests results show two people who were being monitored in isolation do not have the coronavirus.

MDH sent out a news release Monday confirming that CDC laboratory tests came back over the weekend showing that the two patients tested negative for the illness, which is triggering concerns across the globe.  

At this point five cases of Wuhan coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S., while at least 110 patients are being monitored. 

State health officials held a news conference on Friday to share details about how they are preparing for the possibility of the Wuhan coronavirus' arrival in Minnesota. They said that providers across the state have been alerted to let MDH know if they suspect a case of coronavirus.

At that point, the MDH will conduct interviews and ask questions about symptoms, travel, daily activity and who their close contacts are.

The MDH says so far, just these two cases have risen to the level of sending a specimen to the CDC.

"We currently have two specimens that are at CDC for testing and we’re waiting to learn from CDC what the timing will be for receiving those results," said Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann on Friday. "They are rather inundated with specimens."

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Generally, officials said the CDC tests can take several days.

Ehresmann told reporters on Friday that the two people were in isolation at home, but their symptoms did not require hospitalization. Both had recently traveled to Wuhan. The MDH also followed up with their contacts to see if they had any symptoms.

Commissioner Jan Malcolm said the coronavirus risk in Minnesota is "considered to be a low-risk situation for the general public" but that they are asking for a "heightened state of vigilance" to catch any symptoms.

Because symptoms mimic those of the common cold or flu, officials say the key factor to look for is travel to affected areas in China, or contact with anyone who's been there recently.

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It's not just MDH taking precautions locally around the virus. Cargill has asked employees to defer or cancel business travel to Wuhan. They said they're also offering "flexible work options and support services" for employees who have recently traveled there.

3M says it's seeing an increased demand for respiratory protection products in China, or face masks. The company is increasing its production to help meet demand, and working with distributors to make sure they have enough inventory.

"3M is committed to supporting the public health and governmental response to the Coronavirus while maintaining supply to existing customers," they wrote in a statement to KARE 11.

MDH has posted information about coronavirus on its website for anyone who wants to learn more. They said the best prevention is to follow the same respiratory hygiene that's recommended with the flu: Cover your cough, wash your hands, and stay home when you're sick.

Health officials stressed that although coronavirus is new, it's "absolutely" less contagious than something like the measles.

"When something's never been seen before the public’s concern about it is elevated," Malcolm said. 

Right now, they believe the virus is spread by contact, like the flu, and is contagious when people have symptoms.