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State Health Department Taking Measures To Monitor Coronavirus

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The Iowa Department of Public Health says it is taking precautions against the new coronavirus, even though there have been no confirmed cases in Iowa.

The Iowa Department of Public Health says it is taking steps to monitor COVID-19 after federal officials say they expect the virus to spread in the U.S.

On Tuesday officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged public health officials to start preparing to take more aggressive measures against the new coronavirus, which originated in China.

State Medical Director Caitlin Pedati told the Senate Human Resources Committee Wednesday that the department is monitoring people who have visited mainland China and expects to get testing kits from the CDC within a few weeks. Information on the number of people who are being monitored is available on the department's website, she said.

"We do work to prepare for these sorts of things. We want people to understand this is the kind of thing we’ve done work to prepare for and will continue to prepare for," Pedati said.

Pedati said that the virus outbreak is still not considered a pandemic by the World Health Organization and that the risk in Iowa is still low, but the department still wants to be prepared.

"And that’s why you’ll hear us say that while the risk here in Iowa is low -- and it is --  we want to acknowledge that situations like this or viruses like this do have the potential to spread," she said.

There have been 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 diagnosed in the U.S and an additional 45 cases of people infected abroad who have returned to the U.S, according to the CDC. None of those cases are in Iowa. 

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter