St. Paul, MN (KROC-AM News) - State health officials have submitted samples from two Minnesotans to federal health officials to determine if their respiratory illnesses are being caused by the new coronavirus.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Ruth Lynfield says both patients became ill after traveling to Wuhan, China which is at the center of an outbreak of the novel virus and is among the major cities in China where the government has imposed travel restrictions affecting tens of millions of people. Dr. Lynfield is stressing the virus is not circulating in Minnesota and those at risk are people who have recently traveled to the areas where it is circulating in the community.

The Minnesota patients are currently being kept in home isolation pending the results of testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which could take several days. In the event of positive test results, the Minnesota Department of Health will follow up with visits to people who have had contact with the infected person and will notify the general public.

State health officials say lessons learned from past outbreaks of viral illnesses is that identifying and quickly and effectively responding to cases is key. They also note Minnesota has a strong surveillance system in place to deal with emerging illnesses.

While the risk to the general public is low, the health department is advising everyone to take the same precautions taken to fend off common infections. That includes staying home when you are sick, covering your mouth when coughing and frequent good hand washing.

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