AP NEWS

Colorado public health officials able to test for new virus

March 2, 2020 GMT

DENVER (AP) — The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is now able to conduct tests for the virus that causes the disease called COVID-19, officials said.

Previously only the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could test patients in Colorado, Colorado Public Radio reports.

The state currently has no known COVID-19 cases.

The test will only be used for patients who meet specific criteria indicating they may be at a higher risk of having contracted the virus, the health department said.

The state lab has the capacity to test up to 160 samples per day, assuming test kits from the CDC are available. The state expects it should have results within 24 hours after the laboratory receives a specimen, the department said.

“The time frame for testing cases should be quicker than ever,” state lab Director Scott Bookman said in the statement. “Being able to confirm or rule out cases of COVID-19 at the state level allows us to be more nimble in responding to and controlling this disease if it occurs in Colorado.”

COVID-19 is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that is a close cousin to the SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.

More than 88,000 people around the globe have been infected, with the virus appearing on every continent but Antarctica.

Virus symptoms can include fever, runny nose, cough and breathing trouble.

Most develop only mild cases. But some people, usually those with other medical complications, develop more severe symptoms, including pneumonia, which can be fatal.