BOZEMAN - The Gallatin County Health Department is warning about a potential case of the highly contagious novel coronavirus in Bozeman.

One patient is in isolation for evaluation, marking the first potential novel coronavirus case that we know of in Montana.

The patient is currently in isolation in Bozeman Deaconess Hospital for an unknown illness. The patient has a history of travel in mainland China and is experiencing symptoms that are similar to the ones seen connected to the coronavirus. It's important to note that the symptoms of coronavirus are not incredibly unique, and can often look similar to the common flu.

Health officials say throughout Montana, they're aware of 10-15 people who have traveled to mainland China and come back to the States. All are being monitored by local health departments. This is the first case Gallatin County health officials are aware of where an individual has showed symptoms. 

So far, the coronavirus has infected more than 40,000 people in China resulting in more than 1,000 deaths. Only 12 people in America have been diagnosed with the illness.

Gallatin County health officials say they were preparing for this possibility and they are using an abundance of caution.

"It's a new thing. So I think any time you have a new thing that's out there, that tends to ratchet up the stress level, it tends to attract media attention," says Gallatin County Health Officer Matt Kelley. "I wouldn't be surprised if at the end of this week we hear that this person does not have coronavirus. What we want to do is communicate openly with the public because we know that some people have heard about this particular case and we want to share what we have."

Kelley adds that the Gallatin County Health Department is in communication with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

A few other things to note: there is an extremely small risk in Gallatin County, but people are still encouraged to take the necessary precautions to stay healthy, all similar to how you would treat the flu. That means you should cover your cough, talk to your doctor and stay home if you get sick.

Coronavirus has generally lower respiratory symptoms like a cough, shortness of breath, and a fever.

Health officials in Bozeman hope to have an answer on the patient's condition by the end of the week, possibly as early as Wednesday. We will keep you up to date as soon as we learn more information.

The full Gallatin County Health Department press release from Monday afternoon is attached below.

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