DES MOINES — If you’re returning from one of six different countries, the Iowa Department of Public Health is requesting you voluntarily quarantine for two weeks due to coronavirus concerns.

The state’s public health department’s request applies to people returning from China, Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea. Returning travellers are advised to stay in their homes and to monitor their symptoms for 14 days and seek medical care if they become ill.

IDPH Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati asked Tuesday for schools and businesses to be flexible to allow individuals to have time off school or work.

“The overall idea here is that if we have a virus that we know can move from person to person, and if we have people who’ve been in locations where we know that there’s been spread in the community, we want people to take the opportunity to keep an eye on their symptoms and be on a preventive side so we can slow as much as we can the introduction and spread of this virus here in Iowa,” she said.

In Iowa, there are still no cases of COVID-19, a strand of the coronavirus that has caused 88,948 cases globally, according to the World Health Organization. The virus has killed 2,915 in China and 128 others across 64 countries.

Iowa remains at a low risk, Pedati said Tuesday.

“I’m saying that because we have found no evidence that there’s spread of this illness in our community,” she said. “We do however recognize that there are increasing cases in other jurisdictions, other countries and other states here in the U.S. So we want to recognize that there is the potential that this virus could spread and that it could potentially be introduced here in Iowa.”

Experts expect the number of cases to continue growing in the United States, the public health department said.

To prevent the spread of any illness, including COVID-19, public health shares three simple tips:

• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm/elbow.

• Clean your hands frequently with soap and water.

• Contain germs by staying home when ill.

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. They can take between two and 14 days to appear.

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