Two people from New Hampshire who recently traveled to Wuhan City, China, have become ill and are being tested for coronavirus, the newly discovered virus that has sickened hundreds, state health authorities said.
The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement the two people, who were not identified, sought medical care for respiratory ailments and are now recovering.
“They remain isolated until test results are available,” said the department in a statement. New Hampshire authorities sent samples to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.
If testing confirms a case of coronavirus in the state, the department will “share that information and protective recommendations with both the affected parties and the public as quickly as possible.”
“The risk to our communities in New Hampshire is low, but we want to identify people who may be infected with this new coronavirus in order to prevent spread,” state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan said in a statement.
Chan continued, “We have recommended that healthcare providers conduct travel screenings and implement isolation practices for patients with a fever or respiratory illness who report travel to this affected region of China. This is a rapidly changing situation, and we remain committed to providing timely updates to residents of New Hampshire and our health care providers.”
A newly discovered coronavirus has sickened hundreds of people in China and several others in Asia, with at least 81 deaths reported so far. At least two US patients have been diagnosed with the dangerous new virus. The pneumonia-like illness was first identified in late December in Wuhan, the capital city of central China’s Hubei province.
Two high profile outbreaks in recent years were caused by related coronaviruses.
In 2002, the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, led to more than 8,000 respiratory illnesses and 774 deaths. And since 2012, MERS — Middle East respiratory syndrome — has sickened 3,000 people and caused 858 deaths, mostly in Saudi Arabia. The SARS outbreak was eventually contained, but MERS continues to cause illness.
Then, on Dec. 31, a Chinese provincial health department notified the World Health Organization of a cluster of unusual pneumonia cases, later identified as a new coronavirus, still unnamed. Most of those affected had visited an animal market, and animals are the likely source.
According to New Hampshire authorities, it is still unknown how easily the coronavirus spreads, but person-to-person transmission has been identified. Reported symptoms of illness have included primarily fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. There are currently no vaccines available to protect against the coronavirus, authorities said.
Felice J. Freyer and Matt Rocheleau of Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was used.