LMH has potential case of coronavirus, hospital reports

photo by: Chris Conde

LMH Health is pictured in a file photo from October 2018.

A potential case of coronavirus has been identified at LMH Health, a spokeswoman for the hospital said Tuesday afternoon.

Spokeswoman Amy Northrop said the hospital received a patient with symptoms of a respiratory illness and that the patient had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the first case of the mysterious respiratory disease was identified. The hospital would not disclose the age or gender of the patient because of privacy concerns, but the Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported the patient is a Douglas County resident.

The patient is currently in an isolation room specifically designed for disease prevention, Northrop said.

KDHE said in a statement that specimens would be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for testing Tuesday, and results are expected later this week.

If the patient is confirmed to have the disease, it would be the first case of the illness in Kansas.

The patient is “not severely ill” and returned to the United States within the last two weeks after traveling to Wuhan, KDHE secretary Lee Norman said in a written statement from the department. The patient became symptomatic and sought care on Monday.

The KDHE said that it was working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LMH Health and the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to identify and contact all of those who may have come into contact with the individual “so that we can begin monitoring them for fever and respiratory symptoms, should this be a confirmed case.”

The hospital will remain open to patients and the community, given the safety precautions that have isolated the patient from other parts of the hospital. Northrop also said there would be masks available at the entrances to the hospital for visitors and patients to use. Those masks were placed in the hospital on Jan. 10, she said, because of the influenza outbreak. LMH officials are recommending that anyone visiting the hospital with a cough, fever or other symptoms use the masks.

Russ Johnson, LMH Health president and CEO, said the hospital has worked closely with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to be prepared for an event like this.

“Our initial role was one of surveillance — as the outbreak became apparent, we placed health alerts throughout the hospital and clinics regarding potential exposure in an effort to increase awareness of possible symptoms among travelers from China. Now, our efforts are focused on caring for this patient as we await test results,” Johnson said in a news release from LMH Health.

Hospital officials said LMH has strong procedures in place to safely deal with infectious diseases.

“We invest substantial time and energy ensuring we are prepared to handle public health concerns in concert with our partners at the local, state and federal level,” said LMH Health’s Dr. Christopher Penn, a board-certified physician in infectious disease and internal medicine. “The processes we have in place are intended to keep our providers and community safe, while providing the best care to those who need us most.”

On Tuesday, The New York Times reported that the number of worldwide confirmed cases of the mysterious respiratory disease increased by nearly 60% overnight, rising from 2,835 on Monday to 4,515 on Tuesday.

Scott Pauley, a spokesman with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday morning that there were no confirmed cases of the disease in Kansas. However, that report is a day old. The CDC updates its website with new numbers every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he said.

Currently, five cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Washington, California, Arizona and Illinois, according to the CDC’s website.

Cases of coronavirus have been identified in 18 countries, but most of the confirmed cases are in the central Chinese province of Hubei. So far, 106 people have died in China from the illness, according to the Times.

BBC News reported that most of the people who have died from the disease were elderly or had pre-existing respiratory problems.

On Monday, the CDC recommended travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China. The CDC is also screening travelers coming from China to detect travelers with fever, cough or difficulty breathing. CDC staff will take the temperature of each traveler. The Times reported that the CDC will screen travelers arriving from Wuhan, China, at 20 points of entry to the United States.

Those infected by the coronavirus may experience few to no symptoms or may become severely ill and die. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath, and are believed to appear between two and 14 days post-exposure.

There is no vaccine or treatment for the disease.

Coronaviruses are common in animals, but rarely evolve to infect humans and spread between humans, according to the CDC.

In the past, other coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS were thought to spread through respiratory droplets, such as when an infected person sneezes or coughs on another.

At first, coronavirus was thought to be spreading through animal-to-person contact, but now there are a growing number of patients who reportedly have not had exposure to meat or fish markets, indicating a person-to-person spread.


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