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Carle Hospital In Urbana To Participate In Statewide Coronavirus Surveillance Program

URBANA – Starting this week, some patients who present to the emergency department at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana with flu-like symptoms will be tested for the coronavirus.

Sample collection will be done at Carle, and testing will be conducted by the Illinois Department of Public Health, which is able to provide in-state testing for coronavirus with a 24-hour turnaround time.

Carle is one of several hospitals in Illinois participating in this state-wide sentinal coronavirus surveillance program, says Dr. Robert Healy, Carle’s Chief Quality Officer.

While there are no known cases of coronavirus in Champaign-Urbana at this time, and local public health officials say only a handful of people are under investigation, the goal of the new surveillance program is to determine whether the coronavirus may be quietly spreading in the community, Healy says.

Samples from 20 patients each week who test negative for the flu will be submitted for coronavirus testing.

“These are people with no travel history, no exposure that we know of,” Healy says. “The question is: Even without that exposure, could they possibly have the disease?”

The surveillance program will not involve sick patients with a known history of travel to high-risk areas or exposure to someone with coronavirus. 

For those cases, Healy says Carle will continue to work with the local public health district to help patients self-isolate at home whenever possible. Those in need of hospitalization would be treated at Carle under quarantine.

Healy recommends that patients who think they may have the coronavirus disease, COVID-19, call their health care provider for guidance before reporting to the hospital.

Follow Christine on Twitter: @CTHerman

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Christine Herman

Christine Herman is a Ph.D. chemist turned audio journalist who covers health for the Illinois Newsroom. Her reporting for Illinois Public Media/WILL has received awards from the Illinois Associated Press Broadcasters Association, the Public Media Journalists Association and has reached both regional and national audiences through WILL's health reporting partnership with Side Effects Public Media, NPR and Kaiser Health News. Christine started at WILL in 2015.

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