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Map showing the number of coronavirus cases outside China.
Map showing the number of coronavirus cases outside China. (Good/TNS/TNS)

A Maryland resident is being tested for the new coronavirus that has sickened thousands and killed dozens in an outbreak that began in — and remains centered in — China but has crept to other countries in recent days.

The person or their location was not identified by the Maryland Department of Health, which said the patient is in good condition and being monitored while awaiting test results.

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Samples are sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing when the patient meets certain criteria, including showing respiratory symptoms and having traveled from China in the past two weeks. They also might qualify for testing if they have been in close contact with someone who has traveled and is sick.

“The Maryland Department of Health is closely monitoring the rapidly changing situation with 2019 N-CoV, both in the U.S. and in China,” said Fran Phillips, the state’s deputy secretary of public health, in a statement. “As we learn more, Marylanders are encouraged to practice everyday actions to promote good health and to protect yourself and your loved ones from respiratory viruses like the coronavirus — wash your hands thoroughly, cover your cough and avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home from work or school if you’re not feeling well.”

The department emphasized that there are no confirmed cases in the state of this new coronavirus, a family of pathogens that includes the common cold and other more serious viruses such as SARS and MERS.

The CDC has said that Americans remain at low risk for infection from the virus. There are five confirmed cases in the United States, all among travelers. They are in California, Washington, Illinois and Arizona.

The state health department has been receiving calls from local health department for days, but no one until now had met the criteria to be tested.

Jennifer Schneider, a deputy director for disease prevention and management in the Anne Arundel County Department of Health, said there has not been anyone in the county who met the criteria to be tested, but officials are prepared.

She said there are protocols for local health departments, which are likely to get the calls from hospitals and doctors’ offices in their area when someone comes in with a suspected case. They coordinate with the state health department and the CDC to test the people.

For now, all of the samples go to the CDC lab, but the CDC is working on a test that can be used locally, she said.

She said the most important thing people can do now to protect themselves is to maintain good hygiene, including frequent hand washing and avoiding people who are coughing and sneezing, as well as staying home and calling for medical advice if they become sick and are concerned.

She also advised people to get a flu shot if they have not already. The influenza virus is not a coronavirus but is sickening far more Marylanders and Americans now.

“The health risks from the coronavirus are low at this time,” she said. “The biggest threat at this time is the flu.”

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