Minnesota Health Department issues alert to clinics about China's coronavirus

Passengers wear protective masks to protect against the spread of the Coronavirus as they arrive at the Los Angeles International Airport, California, on January 22, 2020. - A new virus that has killed nine people, infected hundreds and has already r ( Mark Ralston/AFP )

All travel outside Wuhan, China is stopped Wednesday as officials hope to contain the spread of a pneumonia-like virus that has now spread to at least one person in the United States.

Today, the Minnesota Department of Health alerted clinics here how to screen for the virus and respond.

The Coronavirus, as it’s known, has spread throughout parts of China. One case has been discovered in Washington state, too.

As of Wednesday, the Minnesota Department of Health sent an alert to clinics advising providers on what to look for.

“If it’s similar to some of the other emerging coronaviruses such as MIRS or SARS, we do know that the elderly and people with underlying conditions may be at risk for more severe disease. So, that’s something we need to keep an eye out for,” said Dr. Ruth Lynfield, an epidemiologist at the Minnesota Department of Health.

So far, the coronavirus has killed 17 people in China with 440 known infections. World leaders are paying attention, as is the Centers for Disease Control in the United States.

The CDC has set up screening procedures for passengers arriving from Wuhan, China at airports in Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and San Francisco. Similar procedures will be in place in Chicago by week’s end.

“Observing them for cough or signs of shortness of breath or fever, then taking their temperatures to make sure we’re not seeing fever,” said Allison Ardwardy, the Chicago Department of Health Commissioner.

German scientists believe they have just developed a test to diagnose the virus.

“It is difficult to predict now how the trajectory of this epidemic will develop,” said Christian Drosten, of Berlin Children’s Hospital Institute of Virology. “I assume that we will not contain this within a week.”

Containment is now a top concern as the city of Wuhan is on a travel lockdown Wednesday. No trains or planes can go in or out.

The China Daily News reported 2,000 hospital and clinic beds are set aside for pneumonia patients in a city of 11 million people.

MSP Airport is not screening arriving passengers from China. An airport spokesperson said it’s because there are no direct flights to China from MSP Airport. MSP does fly to Seoul and Tokyo directly, however.

The Centers for Disease Control will have to add MSP Airport to the list.