Horizon Public Health’s Emergency Preparedness Team is actively involved in planning with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control for all aspects of the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). One of our goals is to provide accurate and timely information to you the public.

First and foremost, the health threat is being taken seriously by MDH, CDC and Horizon Public Health, but we are also keeping it in perspective.

2019-nCoV is a viral respiratory illness caused by a coronavirus that has not been found in people before. Because this is a new virus, there are still things we do not know, such as how severe the illness can be, how well it is transmitted between people, and other features of the virus.

Based on what has been seen previously in regard to the incubation period of other coronaviruses, CDC believes that symptoms of 2019-nCoV may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. As of right now, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV to the general American public is considered low.

Work is underway to develop a vaccine for the virus but will be several months away.

For now, the United States is focusing on travelers. By limiting travel to and from China and by screening passengers on flights originating in China, it is hoping to slow the spread of 2019-nCoV.

Passengers are being observed for cough and runny nose. Should they have these symptoms, they are being referred to medically-trained personnel for further screening. At this point they may be asked to self-quarantine. MDH reports practicing self-quarantining is over 98% effective.

Two cases have been confirmed in Minnesota at this time. To stay healthy, it is best practice to follow the recommendations for cold and flu season: Wash your hands. Stay home when you are sick. Cover your cough.

Based on what we know now about 2019-nCoV and what is known about its spread, MDH is not issuing a recommendation at this time to cancel upcoming community events such as concerts, parties or church gatherings.

Please call Horizon Public Health if you have questions. The number is 320-208-6672. Or visit the MDH website, which is updated as new information becomes available, at health.state.mn.us.

Marcia Schroeder is a registered nurse with Horizon Public Health, which serves five counties, including Douglas County. Contact her at marcias@horizonph.org.