DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Public health authorities in Dallas are now testing for the coronavirus.
Starting Wednesday Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) initiated immediate screenings of individuals who may have symptoms related to the virus.
The laboratory in the health department is now up to capacity -- that means the Dallas facility no longer has to send specimens to the Centers for Disease Control and the testing of specimens for people who've already been examined by a health professional can be done faster.
So while residents can't just walk into DCHHS and have coronavirus testing done, it now only takes one day to process samples sent in by health workers and confirm if someone has the virus. The lab can complete a few dozen test kits a day.
While there are no confirmed coronavirus cases in North Texas, the ability to run tests locally speeds up the fight to stop any potential spread.
"If a person tests positive for virus, the first 48 hours is critical, because epidemiologists act as disease detectives," explained Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. "They find people who've had contact with patient zero."
To put things in perspective, if there is a person already in self-isolation, based on their travel outside the country, if they've been seen by a doctor their lab samples can be sent to DCHHS and depending on the backlog they could have results with 24 hours and possibly end their quarantine.
In addition to Dallas County, DCHHS will also perform tests any specimens sent to them from Collin, Ellis and Kaufman Counties. Officials say having the ability to test for the virus in a number of North Texas counties increases "regional preparedness in response to this emerging public health issue."
The lab at Tarrant County Public Health to expected to soon have the same coronavirus testing ability.
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