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Illinois can now test for coronavirus in-state, cutting down wait times

Illinois can now test for coronavirus in-state, cutting down wait times

U.S. risk remains low; 2 Illinoisans who tested positive are released

By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois
jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health now has the ability to test for the 2019 novel coronavirus in-state, meaning shorter wait times for test results for people showing symptoms of the virus and meeting certain criteria.

IDPH said in a news release Tuesday that Illinois is the first state to be able to do the testing without shipping specimens out of state, and results are typically available within 24 hours.

“The ability to do this testing will mean we will be able to detect any new cases of novel coronavirus earlier and prevent any possible spread,” IDPH Assistant Director Evonda Thomas-Smith said in the news release. “We understand there is concern about this new virus, which is why having test results back quickly can help reduce some of those concerns.” 

While the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a global health emergency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk to the U.S. public at large “remains low at this time.”

The CDC began shipping test kits to select qualified U.S. and international laboratories last week, and IDPH is working to bring testing online in its Springfield and Carbondale labs.

In Illinois, two people have tested positive for novel coronavirus. The first was a woman who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, which is at the center of the outbreak. The second was her husband, who contracted the virus after close contact with her. Authorities said at the time the transmission of the virus from wife to husband was “not totally unexpected.”

Both patients were released from the hospital to home isolation last week “under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Another 44 tests for the virus in Illinois residents have come back negative, according to IDPH. Another three tests of “persons under investigation” are pending.

The IDPH said the test is intended for use with upper and lower respiratory specimens collected from people who meet certain criteria, which include having traveled to China and other exposure history, as well as symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath.

Authorities believe symptoms appear between two and 14 days after exposure, and there is not a significant risk of a person transmitting the virus before they develop symptoms.

Coronavirus is a large family of viruses, with some causing illness in people, and others circulating among animals, according to IDPH. The virus is named for the crown-like spikes on its surface. Human coronaviruses are “common throughout the world” and usually cause mild to moderate illness in people, according to IDPH.

The concern over the recent outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus comes from the fact that it is a new, unrecognized strain. Previous novel coronavirus strains – such as the ones that caused MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome – evolved from animal strains and have been associated with more severe respiratory illness, according to IDPH.

As of Tuesday, 13 people in the U.S. had tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus.

According to a WHO situation report dated Tuesday, Feb. 11, there were 43,103 confirmed cases of the virus. All but 395 of them were in China, where 1,017 deaths have occurred, according to the report. Only one death has occurred outside of China.

While the CDC has said confirmation of “limited person-to-person spread” of the virus in Asia “raises the level of concern about this virus,” the federal agency “continues to believe” the risk to the American public at large “remains low at this time.”

The CDC also recommends avoidance of all nonessential travel to China.

IDPH has a hotline for Illinois residents with coronavirus questions. Residents outside of Chicago may call 800-889-3931 or email DPH.SICK@illinois.gov.  Chicago residents may call 312-746-4835 Monday through Friday during business hours and 311 during evenings, weekends, and holidays, or email coronavirus@chicago.gov.

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