In an ever-evolving news cycle around the novel coronavirus, San Francisco flu patients will start being tested for the disease as part of an "early warning system" enacted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
As reported by KPIX, the government organization's secretary, Alex Azar, said recently that flu patients in San Francisco — in addition to those residing in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — would go through examination for the coronavirus, per an interview with CNBC.
While CDC considers #COVID19 a serious situation and is taking preparedness measures, the immediate risk in the U.S. is considered low. Everyone should always take simple daily precautions to help prevent the spread of respiratory illnesses. https://t.co/uArGZTrH5L #coronavirus pic.twitter.com/tm3f9QAk32— CDC (@CDCgov) February 14, 2020
“We’re deploying the full force of the U.S. government to protect the health and safety of the American people,” the HHS secretary says to the global news outlet... right on the heels of Azar's testimony before the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing on President Trump's fiscal 2021 budget.
“We are using our flu surveillance network in Seattle, San Francisco, L.A., Chicago, and New York, where individuals who present with flu-like or China coronavirus-like symptoms will be tested not just for flu but also tested for China coronavirus,” Azar tells CNBC. “That way we have an early warning system, [and] we have no epidemiological reason to believe that we have cases out there, but we want to be on the safe side.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), particularly, stated these tests won't be conducted at local hospitals in the aforementioned cities, but rather at a handful of public health labs in those metros. The reasoning behind this is simple: to remove the risk of exposure to dense public areas and more medical workers, which account for roughly 4 percent of all confirmed coronavirus virus cases.
This procedure, too, is important as research is still unclear on how contagious and communicable the flu-like pathogen is. Just yesterday, various news agencies reported a man on United Airlines Flight 901 from SFO to London was removed from the plane my first responders after he reportedly displayed symptoms of the coronavirus, which, as described by the World Health Organization (WHO), can span the gamut of severe coughing and high-fever to insignia to insignificant body aches and slight dizziness.
Globally, some 70,000 cases of coronavirus have been identified as of today, with still only 15 confirmed cases in the United States, according to NPR.As it stands right now, Vox loosely stimates the mortality rate for the coronavirus sits in-and-around 2 percent, substantially higher than that of the common flu’s less-than .4 percent, per global estimates by the CDC.
The CDC is expected to roll out the program next week, with more information to follow suit.