SPRINGFIELD -- The Illinois state health department says it is taking proactive steps against the spread of novel coronavirus as federal authorities warn that a spread of the virus in the U.S. is imminent.
"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but more really a question of when it will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said of the spread of the virus Tuesday, according to transcripts.
The Illinois Department of Public Health said in a news release that while the risk to the public is currently low, precaution is necessary.
"In the absence of medications or vaccines, community mitigation measures are the first line of defense against highly transmissible infectious diseases," according to state health department's release. "Preventative actions should be practiced by Illinoisans at all times, but especially as we continue to monitor potential spread of a new virus."
The agency's director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said in the release the department is "working with health care providers and local public health officials, the (CDC), and other state agencies to coordinate a robust response and take every possible step we can to prepare."
The state health department is conducting hospital assessments to determine available capacity and is assessing the availability of personal protective equipment such as gloves, gowns and masks for health care workers, according to the release.
Ezike said Illinois recently became the first state to test for the virus. According to the IDPH website, 70 tests have been conducted in the state, with 66 negative, two pending and two positive tests.
Those positives were in a Chicago-area woman who contracted the virus after visiting Wuhan, China, and her husband with whom she was in close quarters. Both have since recovered.
The state health department pointed to other preventive measures including setting up a statewide hotline for questions.
The state hotline for residents outside Chicago is (800) 889-3931, and the health department also has an email at DPH.SICK@illinois.gov.