(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) A local hospital is on alert and implementing screens to detect any possible coronavirus cases that may come in, a spokesperson said Tuesday.
The precautionary measure at Mosaic Life Care announced in response to Missouri and Kansas health officials identifying potential cases.
“All throughout the flu season I’m looking to see what’s going on with the flu in Kansas and Missouri," said Mosaic Life Care’s Dr. Scott Folk, an infectious disease specialist.
Kansas health officials said a patient in the state has been tested for the deadly virus, according to the state’s Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) secretary Tuesday.
The virus has led to at least 100 deaths in China so far, where it was first reported. Chinese state-run media reporting more than 4,500 hundred confirmed cases since the outbreak started.
“People inside and outside the medical profession are on edge about this because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Folk said.
There are only five confirmed cases in the United States. The CDC confirmed more than 100 investigations into possible cases are ongoing throughout the country. Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) stated a person was tested for 2019-nCoV, but the results for that patient in the state came back negative this week.
The head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) updated the country about the Wuhan coronavirus Tuesday.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar said right now the risk of exposure is low.
“Americans should know that this is a potentially very serious public health threat, but, at this point, Americans should not worry for their own safety,” Azar said.
CDC officials joined Azar during the briefing to announce the number of U.S. airports that will screen travelers has increased from five to 20 airports.
But the addition of airport screens reach is limited and doesn’t help travelers who already made it home.
That was the case in Kansas.
“This patient was back in China in an area that there’s a lot of coronavirus infection happening right now,” said Dr. Lee Norman, the Secretary of the Kansas health department.
The person came forward on their own.
“This person wisely thought it would be important to let that be known that they had some fever, respiratory symptoms, cough and that kind of thing,” Norman said.
The Wuhan coronavirus symptoms are flu-like and include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Indistinguishable symptoms are not the only complicating factor for the medical community. It’s unclear how sustainable or easily this virus is spreading between people.
The flu can be passed to another before a person knows their sick and when they display symptoms. But with the novel coronavirus, there are unanswered questions about the virus’ incubation period or the time between exposure and the development of symptoms.
“We know that patients are contagious while they are symptomatic,” Folk said. “The question is, are they contagious before they develop symptoms.”
Local hospitals, healthcare clinics, and urgent cares are all on high alert for any possible coronavirus cases. But Mosaic Life Care is going a step further and calling on all of its healthcare workers to ask patients about their travel history.
The hospital and affiliated clinics staff are expected to incorporate the additional screen this week.
We want to be proactive, Folk said.