Colorado Has Another Potential Coronavirus Case, But Officials Say The Risk Is Still Low

A transmission electron micrograph shows Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus particles (colorized yellow).

Colorado health officials say they are testing a third patient in the state for coronavirus.

Those test results — which take several days to come back — are pending at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Those test results are expected late Monday or Tuesday.

The unnamed patient is being treated in metro Denver. It's unclear where exactly the patient is being treated.

Two previous Colorado patients tested negative for the virus. All three patients who were tested showed respiratory symptoms and a history of travel from China.

A release on Monday from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment revealed previously unknown potential infections in a second and third patient.

The first potential patient did travel in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak of a "novel" coronavirus began. Centura-St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood isolated the patient while they investigated. Officials said Sunday that testing on the patient revealed that they do not have coronavirus.

The second patient tested negative in northern Colorado. Health officials would not provide a specific location citing patient privacy.

The New York Times reports Wuhan officials think around half of the city’s nearly 3,000 suspected cases of coronavirus will eventually test positive for the disease. As of Monday morning, there are 2,744 confirmed cases across China. At least 80 people have died from the virus. A fifth U.S. case has been confirmed.

But Colorado public health officials say the risk to the general public is low for novel coronavirus in Colorado.

"While new viruses like this novel coronavirus can be worrisome, really the current risk to people in Colorado and the U.S. is very low," said Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state communicable disease epidemiologist.

It’s normal in situations like this to have multiple cases under investigation, she said. That's because health care providers are being extra cautious, looking for symptoms of the virus, and the public is on high alert.

Colorado has no confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus. But CDPHE officials said they are preparing their response in case a positive coronavirus result is confirmed. The department will continue to investigate possible cases of the virus in patients with similar symptoms who traveled from China.

“At this time of year, there are many causes of respiratory illness in Colorado and around the globe,” Herlihy said. “It’s understandable that people may be worried about the appearance of a new virus."

Denver’s Chinese School canceled its Lunar New Year celebration Saturday, citing the risk of infection.

“This heightened level of caution and awareness among the health care community and the general public is what we want,” said Tony Cappello, a disease control expert in a CDPHE news release. “There’s a lot we still don’t know about the novel coronavirus, but we’re confident that Colorado’s response is strong, proactive, and collaborative.”

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. They are associated with symptoms like fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The viruses spread through coughing or sneezing. Some coronaviruses are common and regularly cause illness in the U.S. in the fall and winter. Others, like MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, can cause severe illness.

CDPHE said it is too soon to know how severe this version of the virus (2019-nCoV) is compared to other similar viruses.

CPR's Chuck Murphy and Hayley Sanchez contributed to this reporting.