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State health officials say Alaska is not among states with patients being monitored for coronavirus

Alaska is not one of the 22 states investigating patients for a suspected case of the new and potentially deadly coronavirus from China, state health officials said Friday.

The confirmation comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that there were 63 “patients under investigation" nationwide, including two people with confirmed cases of the virus.

The CDC said Friday that a Chicago resident was diagnosed with the virus after returning from Wuhan, China, the city at the center of the outbreak. The diagnosis marks the second confirmed case in the U.S.: A man in Seattle was the first with a confirmed case of the virus, health officials announced earlier in the week.

“While this situation poses a very serious public health threat, CDC believes that the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time, but the situation continues to evolve rapidly,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Friday during a call with reporters.

More than 40 people have died from the virus, which has infected over 1,200 people, the Associated Press reported Saturday.

Alaska health officials are reaching out to local providers, like hospitals and doctors’ offices, to push out information from the CDC about the new virus, according to Louisa Castrodale, epidemiologist at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

“The situation is evolving each day,” Castrodale said.

People might be suspected of having the virus if they show symptoms of the illness and have recently traveled to Wuhan, China, or if they have had contact with someone else who is getting checked for the illness.

Symptoms include lower respiratory illness and a fever, Castrodale said.

If someone with matching symptoms and travel history leading to a suspected coronavirus case sought assistance from the Anchorage Health Department, the person would be given a mask and taken to a negative pressure room, according to chief medical officer Bruce Chandler. The room has its own air system, separate from the rest of the building. The patient would be treated by a epidemiological nurse.

The health department has experience dealing with people who have infectious tuberculosis, Chandler said, and they would follow a similar procedure when it comes to the new virus.

One of Alaska’s U.S. senators, Dan Sullivan, addressed concerns about the virus in a video posted to Facebook on Friday after he was briefed by officials at the CDC. Research is still being done to better understand how coronavirus spreads, he said.

The senator also said that although Alaska is a shipping and cargo hub for much of the world, “the likelihood of a virus getting on a package and being able to live is very very low, almost probably, they said, zero."

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