SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health now has the ability to test for the 2019 novel coronavirus in-state, meaning shorter wait times for test results for people showing symptoms of the virus and meeting certain criteria.

IDPH said in a news release Tuesday that Illinois is the first state to be able to do the testing without shipping specimens out of state, and results are typically available within 24 hours.

“The ability to do this testing will mean we will be able to detect any new cases of novel coronavirus earlier and prevent any possible spread,” IDPH Assistant Director Evonda Thomas-Smith said in the news release. “We understand there is concern about this new virus, which is why having test results back quickly can help reduce some of those concerns.”

While the World Health Organization has declared the coronavirus a global health emergency, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the risk to the U.S. public at large “remains low at this time.”

The CDC began shipping test kits to select qualified U.S. and international laboratories last week, and IDPH is working to bring testing online in its Springfield and Carbondale labs.

In Illinois, two people have tested positive for novel coronavirus. The first was a woman who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, which is at the center of the outbreak. The second was her husband, who contracted the virus after close contact with her. Authorities said at the time the transmission of the virus from wife to husband was “not totally unexpected.”

Both patients were released from the hospital to home isolation last week “under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois Department of Public Health,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Another 44 tests for the virus in Illinois residents have come back negative, according to IDPH. Another three tests of “persons under investigation” are pending.

The IDPH said the test is intended for use with upper and lower respiratory specimens collected from people who meet certain criteria, which include having traveled to China and other exposure history, as well as symptoms such as fever and shortness of breath.

Authorities believe symptoms appear between two and 14 days after exposure, and there is not a significant risk of a person transmitting the virus before they develop symptoms.

Jerry Nowicki can be reached at jnowicki@capitolnewsillinois.com

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