A look at local protocols when it comes to testing for COVID-19

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CASTLETON-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. (NEWS10) — More and more patients are being diagnosed with the coronavirus in New York; however, it’s still flu season and the symptoms are very similar. 

Many now wondering, at what point is it time to be swabbed for the Coronavirus. Both a local practitioner and staff at Albany Medical Center said, until they’re told otherwise, they’re still following the protocols and guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Dr. Padma Sripada with Columbia Internal Medicine said even patients coming in for routine visits are voicing their concerns about the Coronavirus. “The biggest challenge now is to quell some of the excessive fears,” said Dr. Sripada. She said, without scaring them too much, she has told them that we’re definitely not seeing the worst of it yet. “It has just entered the country. Expect it to spread,” said Dr. Sripada.  

She’s reminding her patients that the flu is still rampant, so for anyone calling the office or coming in showing flu-like symptoms, that will first need to be ruled out. Patients will also be asked a number of questions provided by the CDC including recent travel history, if they’ve been around an infected person, if they work in the healthcare field, or if they’ve recently been hospitalized.  

From there, she said, in coordination with local and state health departments, it’s handled on a case-by-case basis. They will determine when to categorize someone as a PUI or “person under investigation.”   That person would then be swabbed and self-quarantined at home until results return from Wadsworth Lab. She said, if need be, the lab can process up to 350 specimen a day. “The Coronavirus testing kits are not available to doctors in their offices at this time,” said Dr. Sripada. 

Dr. Sripada said while they continue to follow the CDC protocols and guidelines, she’s certain that as the outbreak continues to evolve, so too will the protocols. “The biggest concerns now are not knowing how fast it’s going to spread. Albany and New York City are so closely interlinked so, I think we really need to develop our guidelines and protocols by the end of this week, if not sooner,” said Dr. Sripada.  

She’s reminding her patients that the Coronavirus is not deadly for everyone. She said right now it appears the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions are the most susceptible for complications. “Most everybody, it will be like any other passing of winter flu-like cold-like illness. The level of severity is going to vary, but most people are going to make a full recovery,” said Dr. Sripada.  

“The WHO has come out and said it’s a mortality rate of 3.4%, so that is much higher than the mortality rate of the flu, which is typically about 1% or a little less. I understand it could be skewed because of the Wuhan province reporting an excessive number of deaths and they are suggesting it might stabilize to around 1% as well, but these are all the answers we don’t have yet so we have to see how it plays out,” said Dr. Sripada.  

She added that many people are hopeful that the warmer weather coming in the spring and summer seasons will help rid the virus from communities, but she said don’t count on it. “We should be prepared to deal with it. This could go on for months,” said Dr. Sripada. 

She is still encouraging anyone who has not had the flu shot, to get one, in an effort to lower the chance for two different viruses to circulate simultaneously.   

“This is why we push the flu shot. We’re panicking about Coronavirus causing similar symptoms, but the flu has been here. There are already 16,000 deaths related to the flu in this country for this season,” said Dr. Sripada.  

She said the Coronavirus can be transmitted from someone as far away as six feet. She added that at last check, it can live on surfaces for up to 9 days.  

She stresses proper hand-washing, avoid touching your face, and talk to your employer about the possibility of working from home. 

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