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Louisiana expands testing for COVID-19 as outbreak grows

The health department said it is testing three groups of people, following guidelines from the Center for Disease Control:

NEW ORLEANS — The Louisiana Department of Health expanded guidelines for who should be tested for COVID-19, the potentially deadly disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Starting Friday, healthcare providers in Louisiana will begin testing patients with fever, respiratory problems, and a negative influenza test. If the test returns positive, that patient should be isolated at home until cleared by a physician or public health official.

The health department said patients that fit into the following groups should be tested for COVID-19:

  • Hospitalized patients with a severe respiratory illness with no other known cause.
  • Suspected outbreak of COVID-19 among associated individuals with recent fever or lower respiratory symptoms.
  • Recent fever and lower respiratory symptoms in a healthcare worker with direct contact to a confirmed case of COVID-19
  • Suspected COVID-19 in a patient associated with a high-risk exposure setting such as a long-term care facility or correctional facility.

Health officials expect that increased testing for the coronavirus disease will lead to confirmation of additional cases in Louisiana.

Some commercial labs are now equipped to conduct COVID-19 testing, The health department says. Healthcare providers can now send their samples to those labs for testing and LDH will be notified of any positive results.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may appear 2 to 14 days after exposure.

Worldwide illnesses have ranged from mild to severe, including severe pneumonia that can result in hospitalization or death. 

Older people and people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease or cancer seem to be at greater risk of serious illness.

People with recent travel to China, or have come in contact with someone who has recent travel and is ill, have a greater risk for becoming ill.

Credit: TEGNA

What to do if you are sick:

If you recently traveled to an area affected by COVID-19 transmission, and you feel sick, stay home and call your doctor immediately. Do not go to the doctor without calling first.

If you have a fever, cough, or shortness of breath, call your primary care provider. If you do not have a primary care provider, call the Louisiana Department of Health hotline at 1-855-523-2652.

If you are severely ill and you think you need to go to the hospital, call 9-1-1 or go to an emergency room.

Credit: TEGNA

How to Prevent the Spread

The virus is thought to spread between people in close contact (within 6 feet) and through droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.

Wash hands with soap and water often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Especially wash hands after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

Stay home if you feel sick to prevent the spread of germs.

Cover your cough with your elbow to prevent the spread of germs.

Treatments for COVID-19

There are no medications specifically approved for COVID-19. People with coronavirus should be treated with supportive care to help relieve symptoms. 

Some severe cases require going to the hospital, particularly in the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions.

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