DES MOINES, Iowa – Dr. Caitlin Pedati, Iowa’s State Public Health Medical Director and Epidemiologist, said on Tuesday afternoon that Iowa’s risk for the coronavirus known as COVID-19 is still low.

Currently, there are five pending cases within the state, but none have been confirmed to be the virus that has seen almost 93,000 cases worldwide, with 3,160 deaths according to data from John Hopkins University. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states there are at least 108 cases in the United States, with nine deaths.

Currently, California, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Illinois, New Hampshire, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Georgia, and Florida have confirmed cases.

“The risk right now in Iowa is still low. But I think it’s important to recognize that I’m saying that because we haven’t found evidence that there’s a spread of this illness in our community. We do, however, recognize that there are increasing cases in other jurisdictions, other countries and other states here in the US. And so we want to recognize that there is a potential that this virus could spread and that it could potentially be introduced here in Iowa,” Pedati said during a press call.

The Iowa Department of Public Health released guidance for those who traveled from countries where COVID-19 has spread such as China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, and South Korea to voluntarily self-isolate and monitor their symptoms. 

“What we’re asking for the general public and for Iowans to do is that if you’re somebody who’s traveled recently to one of these areas, that’s been affected by COVID-19. And so by that we mean, countries or jurisdictions that are listed by the CDC travel health notice at a level two or higher, so two or three, which in turn is recognizing community spread. So if you’re somebody who’s traveling one of those locations, we want you we want to recommend that you voluntarily monitor your symptoms and isolate at home,” Pedati said.

She said that the department has worked with businesses and schools to encourage greater flexibility for people to stay home to self-isolate if needed. 

“The overall idea here is that if we have a virus that we know can move from person to person, and if we have people who’ve been in locations where we know that there’s been spread in a community, we want people to take the opportunity to keep an eye on their symptoms. And be on a preventive side so that we can slow as much as we can the introduction and spread of this virus here in Iowa,” Pedati added.

The department also recommends that all Iowans can help stop the spread of influenza and COVID-19 by covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm/elbow, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, and contain germs by staying home if you are ill.

The symptoms of COVID-19 in people who have been exposed can include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. Reported illnesses have ranged from people with little to no symptoms to people being severely ill and dying.

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