Mosaic Life Care in northwest Missouri’s St. Joseph will begin screening for the coronavirus, which has caused more than 100 deaths in China.

Missouri health care system to begin screening for coronavirus

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.

Director of Infectious Diseases at Mosaic Life Care in St. Joseph, Dr. Scott Folk, says 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,” Folk tells reporters during a news conference at Mosaic. “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 Wednesday, surpassing the 5,327 in mainland China during the SARS outbreak of 2002 and 2003.

Wuhan is a city of 11 million in east-central China.

Folk says much is unknown about the virus, including whether patients are contagious during the incubation period.

“Their risk of acquiring this infection is going to be based on exposure, that’s the bottom line,” Folk says. “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.”

Folk says 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.

Folk says it is the unknown about the coronavirus, which concerns the medical community.

“And that’s why people are on edge and there’s a lot of uncertainty about this,” according to Folk. “That’s why the markets are being rattled right now, because there’s still a lot of uncertainty about this. There’s a lot of certainty, on the other hand, about the flu, but there’s a lot of uncertainty about this. That’s why everyone’s still pretty nervous.”

Folk says he is waiting on information from the Centers for Disease Control before deciding how best to fight the coronavirus.

By Brent Martin of Missourinet affiliate KFEQ in St. Joseph