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LA Lab To Begin Testing Flu Patients For Coronavirus

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – In a sign that the response to the novel coronavirus outbreak is ramping up stateside, U.S. health officials reported Friday that a Los Angeles laboratory will take part in testing patients who are showing flu-like symptoms for the coronavirus.

In a media briefing Friday, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed that testing patients with flu-like symptoms will be conducted at labs in five cities: L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York City.

A man wears a face mask as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, as he stands in a train at Mong Kok MTR station in Hong Kong on February 14, 2020. - The death toll from China's virus epidemic neared 1,400 on Friday with six medical workers among the victims, underscoring the country's struggle to contain a deepening health crisis. (Photo by Philip FONG / AFP) (Photo by PHILIP FONG/AFP via Getty Images)

"The CDC has begun working with five public health labs across the U.S. to tap into their ability to conduct community-based influenza surveillance so that we can begin testing people with flu-like symptoms for novel coronavirus," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters.

The names of the labs were not confirmed. It's also unclear exactly how authorities will decide which flu patients should be tested. The testing will eventually be expanded to more cities.

"Basically, we're taking those five sites through surveillance systems and adding on laboratory testing at the public health labs for novel coronavirus," Messonnier added.

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More than 600 people in the U.S. remain under quarantine. At the latest count, 15 people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, including 7 in California. On Tuesday, a quarantine expired for nearly 200 American evacuees who had been flown in from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus is believed to have started.

According to the CDC, coronavirus is spread from person-to-person through close contact, usually within 6 feet, and mainly via respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. On Friday, Messonnier said people are likely most contagious when they are most symptomatic.

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