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Lawrence hospital quarantines possible coronavirus patient

Posted at 1:47 PM, Jan 28, 2020

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A Lawrence hospital is investigating a potential case of the deadly novel coronavirus.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital and LMH Health announced Tuesday they are working with local and state health agencies to investigate a possible case of “this new respiratory illness [that] was first detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China,” according to a statement on the hospital’s website.

An unidentified patient, who had recently traveled to Wuhan, arrived Monday at LMH Health with symptoms of a respiratory illness.

At a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, staff at Lawrence Memorial Hospital said the possible case of the virus in Kansas led to special precautions being taken at the facility.

Aside from the patient being kept inside an isolation room and wearing a protective shield cover over their face, a doctor told 41 Action News that staff would continue wearing personal protective equipment when treating the patient.

“It is careful. It is meticulous. However, it is not unfamiliar to an organization that treats these folks,” said hospital CEO Russ Johnson. “We’ve taken steps to really focus on the staff and limit the exposure of staff who are caring for this person.”

The medical team said samples taken from the patient were being tested at a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facility in Georgia.

The results, showing whether or not the patient has coronavirus, should be known later this week.

“We’re gathering more information everyday of the exposures that are coming here, and we’re learning from our other worldwide partners,” said LMH Director of Communications Amy Northrop.

Moving forward, the hospital said it was important for the community to stay calm as medical officers treat the patient.

“We are following the right steps. The patient is getting the right care,” he said. “There’s no reason for them to feel alarmed or concerned.”

U.S. health officials have asked citizens to avoid all nonessential travel to China for the time being.

“As in all cases like this, LMH Health works closely with the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department to ensure we are appropriately prepared,” LMH Health President and CEO Russ Johnson said in a letter from the department. “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.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will confirm the diagnosis and LMH Health will issue a statement if the patient is not infected.

The quarantine measures were taken out of an abundance of caution, Lee Norman, Kansas Department of Health and Environment secretary, said in an official letter.

"The patient is not severely ill and is currently in isolation at a hospital as a precaution," Norman said. "The patient returned to the U.S. within the last two weeks after traveling from Wuhan City, China, where an outbreak of 2019-nCoV has been underway since December 2019. The patient became symptomatic in recent days and sought health care Monday."

With safety measures in place, the hospital will remain open for new patients.

“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,” Dr. Christopher Penn, LMH Health’s board certified physician in infectious disease and internal medicine, said. “The processes we have in place are intended to keep our providers and community safe, while providing the very best care to those who need us most.”

China and other countries have instituted travel bans or restrictions to attempt to control the conronavirus' spread.

Health officials in Missouri also have been monitoring one potential case this week.

Symptoms of novel coronavirus include:

  • Runny nose
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Difficulty breathing

The novel coronavirus spreads through the air via coughs and sneezes. The incubation period is believed to be two to 14 days.

Anyone who is concerned they have been exposed to coronavirus should seek medical attention. Individuals are asked to call ahead to a doctor or emergency room, so precautions can be taken.

Patients needing to be seen at LMH Health should call 785-505-4086 and entry will take place through the emergency entrance along Maine Street.

The KDHE reccommends: "If you have recently traveled to Wuhan, China, and have developed fever with respiratory symptoms within 14 days of your travel or have had contact with someone who is suspected to have 2019 Novel Coronavirus, stay home and call your healthcare provider. You may also call the KDHE Epidemiology Hotline at 1-877-427-7317 if you believe you may have been affected."