State Health Laboratory to begin testing for novel coronavirus

The State Department of Health hopes to be ready to test for the deadly coronavirus starting...
The State Department of Health hopes to be ready to test for the deadly coronavirus starting next week at the State Health Laboratory in Pearl City.(Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Feb. 7, 2020 at 9:48 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The State Department of Health said beginning next week Hawaii should be able to test for coronavirus at the State Laboratory in Pearl City.

That’s important because it will significantly speed up turnaround time. Test results from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta can take a week or longer.

“We need to be able to diagnose a case quickly and accurately if we’re going to be taking appropriate preventive actions. So the sooner we can get results the better,” State Health Director Bruce Anderson said.

The CDC is distributing 200 test kits to labs around the country. Hawaii is getting one of them.

"As epidemic spreads across the world there eventually could be people that come into the state of Hawaii that are more at risk," Lt. Gov. Josh Green said.

The tests will be used on patients who may have been exposed to the deadly virus and who are displaying symptoms. Swabs from their mucus membranes will be sent to the lab.

"The tests actually look for DNA of the virus itself," Anderson said.

On another front, there’s been a buying spree on surgical masks to wear or to send to China.

Don Quijote on Kaheka Street and other department stores report being out of surgical masks, hand sanitizers and some disinfectants.

"If you are sick and you want to wear a mask that's fine. Really the best advice is if you're sick don't go to work. Don't go to school. Stay home and away from people," Green said.

Right now seven people in Hawaii are quarantined at home because they had some contact with people from China.

“These are asymptomatic individuals. It’s very unlikely that they are either going to get sick or have the coronavirus,” Green said.

As for the test kits, one kit can test about 800 patient specimens.

"They say they will get us additional kits if we need them in the future," Anderson said.

He said Hawaii is also offering to run tests on samples from Guam and American Samoa.

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