US hospitals in five cities will now test anyone with flu symptoms but who tests negative for the common seasonal virus for the novel coronavirus spreading China, officials said Friday.
Previously, only people with a recent travel history to China were tested for the virus which has now sickened 15 people in the US.
The Netherlands is the only other country outside China to initiate such widespread testing.
Now, labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York City will test samples taken from anyone who tests negative for flu for the new coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19.
CDC officials said on Friday that they will test any patients in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco who have flu symptoms but are negative for the virus for the new coronavirus – after admitting the tests they sent to states may be faulty
However, the US admitted Wednesday that some of the kits it had shipped to some 200 labs might be faulty after the diagnostic tool returned ‘inconclusive results in some of the states’ quality-assurance tests.
CDC officials said that they were remanufacturing a reagent they believe is at fault for the problems with the test, but it’s unclear if, when or to where the replacement component has been shipped.
Coronaviruses – including COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and those the cause the common cold – share very similar symptoms with flu.
All of these respiratory illnesses tend to bring on fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these infections persist, patients may develop pneumonia.
Flu is an annual pandemic, and this season is already a bad one.
Already, flu has killed more than 90 children in the US, a disturbingly high toll for a season that may have another full month or more to go
Similar though their symptoms may be, COVID-19 and flu are caused by entirely different viruses.
US hospitals and clinics are broadly equipped to do rapid flu tests or send out samples for more full viral cultures.
This flu season, 823,555 patient samples have been tested for flu.
More than 155,000 of those – nearly 19 percent – have tested positive.
But if the testing protocol now installed at labs in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago were expanded to the rest of the US, the remaining 668,555 samples that tested negative for flu would also get tested for coronavirus.
It comes after the CDC has said it expects that coronavirus will ‘spread within communities’ and may ‘take a foothold’ in the US, although the case rate remains low for now.
Coronavirus cases have now been confirmed in 15 people in seven US states
THE AMERICAN CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS
So far, 15 people in the US have been confirmed to have coronavirus in seven states.
The first American with coronavirus was a man in his 30s who did not have symptoms of the infection while traveling back to the US from China.
He recognized his own symptoms and sought medical attention and his diagnosis was confirmed on January 21.
The patient received an experimental treatment – a drug designed for use in Ebola patients – while hospitalized.
On February 4, the man was released, and is considered cured of his symptoms. He remains in isolation at his home as an extra precaution for containment.
A woman in her 60s who traveled to Wuhan, China, was diagnosed with coronavirus on January 25, becoming the second American patient.
She had hardly left her home, so her contacts were limited. However, on January 30, officials confirmed that she had infected her husband, who tested postive for coronavirus.
The couple marked the first case of human-to-human transmission of the virus in the US.
After being hospitalized and treated, the pair were released to home self-isolation on February 7, and said in a statement that they were ‘definitely looking forward to getting home and getting life back to normal.’
California’s first case was confirmed on January 26 in Orange County. Like the previously confirmed patients, the man, who is in his 50s, had recently traveled to China, marking the third US diagnoses.