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Virginia Department of Health 'closely monitoring' outbreak of coronavirus; 2 Virginia cases test negative

A third case in Northern Virginia is being tested to see if it's a new strain of a coronavirus referred to as 2019-nCoV, which originated in China.

RICHMOND, Va. — Two cases in Virginia came back negative for an illness that is emerging and rapidly spreading worldwide.

The Virginia Department of Health says a third case in Northern Virginia is still being investigated for possibly being a new strain of a coronavirus referred to as 2019-CoV.

As of January 27, 2020, there have been no confirmed cases of 2019-CoV in Virginia.

"When potential cases are reported, laboratory samples are collected and submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing. These cases are called Patients Under Investigation," according to information provided by VDH.

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Sentara Healthcare released the following statement about the illness:

"Sentara Healthcare is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and its potential presence in Virginia. We have enacted our robust emergency management protocols and are standing up a dedicated team to monitor and follow the coronavirus closely.

Currently, there are no potential coronavirus patients at any Sentara hospital. If this changes, our highly-skilled team is trained to safely care for any potential patient while ensuring we have zero exposures to our staff and other patients.

We are following guidance from the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) to accurately identify any potential patients who meet the symptoms and travel history to China, or have had close contact with a recent traveler from an infected area.

We ask that everyone follows safe hygiene practices to limit the spread of germs and respiratory viruses. This includes washing your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces often, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and staying home if you believe you are sick."

The illness, which emerged in Wuhan, China, has already caused dozens of deaths and led health officials worldwide to take drastic steps to try and prevent it from spreading.

Five cases in the U.S. have been confirmed. Health officials in Southern California confirmed a case of the new pneumonia-like virus, and there are also confirmed cases in Arizona, Washington state and Chicago, IL.  

In anticipation of public concern, VDH has created a new coronavirus web page that closely monitors the outbreak and also provides important information to state healthcare providers.

The web page also gives a F.A.Q. on the respiratory illness and data on the cases in Virginia that are under investigation for potential coronavirus.

The common coronaviruses can cause mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illness, like the common cold, Virginia health officials said in a news release.

Public health officials are still learning about the virus and how it affects people. 

Some people have had mild symptoms. Others have had more severe illness, including some deaths.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and trouble breathing, and can appear anywhere from two to 14 days after exposure.

Although coronavirus is spreading between people in parts of Asia, scientists do not yet know how easily it spreads, Virginia health officials said.

In the information they provided, VDH recommended that "travelers to China protect themselves by avoiding contact with sick people, animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat)."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel warning to avoid nonessential travel to Hubei Province, China, including Wuhan. CDC has also issued a travel watch to practice the usual precautions for China. 

You can learn more about the CDC's warnings HERE:  https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/china#travel-notices

VDH also wanted to remind Virginians that the best ways to prevent respiratory illness are to get a flu vaccine, wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, stay home when sick, and take flu antivirals as prescribed.

For more information on the new coronavirus, visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/surveillance-and-investigation/novel-coronavirus/

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