AP NEWS

Lab in New Mexico could begin testing for new virus

February 27, 2020 GMT

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Health officials in New Mexico send off samples from people suspected of having the new coronavirus to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the state epidemiologist said an Albuquerque lab is expected to soon begin conducting the tests.

New Mexico has no cases of the deadly virus that originated from China, also known as COVID-19.

State Epidemiologist Michael Landen expects the state to soon begin its own testing, meaning doctors will be able to send samples to the lab in Albuquerque instead of a federal lab, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported Wednesday.

It is unclear when the lab would open.

Currently, doctors call the state Health Department to determine if testing is needed for anyone who complains about or experiences symptoms and has recently returned from China. If given approval, the tests are conducted and results are sent off to federal health officials.

“They (patients) would have to be sick. They would have to be in a higher-risk category,” Landen said.

If an outbreak in the state occurs, testing would expand to allow health care providers to order tests at commercial labs, Landen said.

World health officials fear the virus could become a pandemic with more than three dozen countries reporting at least one case of the disease.

The global count of those sickened by the virus stands at about 82,000, with 433 new cases reported Thursday in China and another 505 in South Korea.