“We are continuing to investigate the situation with this patient, but there are no glaring underlying health conditions that we are aware of right now,” said MDH Infectious Disease Division Director Kris Ehresmann in a briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon, March 10.
Ehresmann said that the patient is believed to have contracted the virus from contact with international travelers while out of state.
“At this point we think the exposure did not happen in Minnesota,” Ehresmann said.
Health officials said the patient first noticed symptoms on Feb. 28, sought medical attention on March 3, and was seen and released without testing. The patient returned to seek additional medical attention on Monday, at which point the patient was tested and hospitalized. The test returned positive Tuesday morning.
Health officials believe the patient had limited contact with the public and say they are working with Anoka County Public Health and providers to identify and contact all those who may have come in contact with the infected person. These people and household members will be asked to quarantine themselves for 14 days from their exposure and will be monitored for fever and respiratory symptoms.
“The patient is currently hospitalized in critical condition, so we are working with family members to get information on potential exposures,” Ehresmann said. “While there will certainly always be some exposures, this is a situation in which the individual and family took great care to isolate, and that makes all the difference in the world, for our work and for the community.”
Health officials said the state remains in a case-containment status, but is asking the community to begin to prepare for the possibility of the need to work remotely. They are not ready to make recommendations concerning large gatherings.
“We may get more information on cases even today. But right now we’re focusing on containment. The number of cases we are seeing in Minnesota is in the handfuls, they have a link to a reasonable source of exposure … but we need to be thinking about the next phases. If you have the opportunity to do video conferencing for meetings, or to start to practice these things, definitely do it now.”
“Once we are at point of multiple cases, from multiple, different areas, that is when we would start to look at a stronger community mitigation message … We had our first case on Friday, and this could go on for months and months. We want to be judicious in recommending a lockdown.”
Also on Tuesday it was announced that a third case has been identified in Wisconsin, with minimal exposure to others. There are currently over 116,000 cases identified globally, with 4,000 deaths. In the U.S., 756 cases have been confirmed, with 26 deaths, 22 of them from Washington state. State health officials said they tested 50 patients on Monday, and received 389 calls on their hotline.
“Our message is to stay home when you’re sick,” Ehresmann said. “We’re actually saying this for all of our health. People don’t necessarily know if they are in a situation where they could have been exposed.”
The MDH coronavirus hotline is (651) 201-3920.
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