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Health-care system in St. Joseph to begin screening for coronavirus

The coronavirus threat started in China, but its impact is now being felt closer to home. Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph, Mo. will begin screening for the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed five cases in the United States and is keeping track of 110 potential cases, all from people who recently visited Wuhan, China. One patient is under investigation in Missouri after testing negative for the disease with flu-like symptoms.

Scott Folk, Ph.D., director of infectious diseases at Mosaic, said the virus has the attention of the medical community.

“The uncertainty, right now, with the Wuhan coronavirus is how well the virus will adapt to human-to-human transmission,” he said. “We know it can occur, but we don’t know well and how long that’s going to happen. And that’s why everyone is on edge right now.”

The virus has spread quickly since first reported in Wuhan last month. The number of confirmed cases jumped to 5,974 on Wednesday, surpassing the 5,327 in mainland China during the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003. Much is unknown about the virus, including whether patients are contagious during the incubation period, Folk said.

“Their risk of acquiring this infection is going to be based on exposure, that’s the bottom line,” he said. “So, exposure determines risk. If someone has been to Wuhan in the last two weeks, then yes, they are at risk. It doesn’t mean they necessarily have the infection, but they are at risk for sure.”

Mosaic will begin asking those admitted to the hospital whether they have traveled to Wuhan, China in the last two weeks. If no, Mosaic will ask if the patient has been in contact with someone who has been to Wuhan in the last 14 days.