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Maine behind most of the country in COVID-19 testing, according to report

The Portland Press Herald reports Maine is close to testing for coronavirus, or COVID-19

PORTLAND, Maine — According to a report in the Portland Press Herald, Maine is one of only five states yet to be approved for in-state COVID-19 testing.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed Maine, West Virginia, Ohio, Wyoming, and Oklahoma as 'in process' of setting up in-state coronavirus testing labs.

Maine currently sends tests to the U.S. CDC labs in Atlanta. According to the Press Herald, 18 blood samples have been sent and have been tested or are currently been tested. Maine's CDC has not reported any new test results. 

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of Maine's CDC, said the state has been preparing for this possibility since China declared an outbreak of the virus back in December.

It was just three months ago when the world first heard of the novel Coronavirus, a fast-moving and ever-changing virus that quickly reached outbreak proportions in China. 

Maine is one of only five states without the capacity in-state to test people suspected of having the novel coronavirus, an upper respiratory illness that originated in China and is rapidly spreading across the globe. As of Friday, the U.S.

The virus is now named Covid-19 and it has since spread to 82 countries including the US.

"This is a rapidly dynamic changing situation, and we are prepared for the possibility that there will be cases in Maine," Dr. Shah said.

Dr. Shah said he and his team and diverse group of medical professionals, including clinicians, epidemiologists, laboratory staff, and public health planners and nurses from across the state have been getting ready for months, just in case.

Credit: U.S. Center for Disease Control

"Once we first starting hearing about what was going on in China that team assembled so we could start coming up with scenarios that would help is us be where we are today. We are where we are in terms of our readiness because of all the preparedness we've done." 

Dr. Shah said his team has been working to make sure every health care provider in Maine knows what's going on with Covid-19 and what the signs and symptoms are. 

"In my experience, when I'm dealing with any kind of novel outbreak, the first place I go is the three I's."

Identify potential cases. If there are any signs or symptoms, rapidly Isolate and then epidemiologists will Investigate any cases and anyone who may have come in contact with those people.

Dr. Shah told the paper that Maine received testing equipment earlier this week and were granted permission to begin manual testing Friday. Shah told the paper they expect to have an automated system set up by early next week.  Dr. Shah said once Maine can self-test, the state will only send positive test to the U.S. CDC for confirmation. 

“The benefit of doing the test in-state is really the avoidance of having to transport the sample down to the CDC,” Shah told the Press Herald. “I know that it’s faster (in-state), but we don’t know how many hours faster.”

The paper reported the Maine CDC received a testing kit, allowing for between 500 and 700 tests.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses have been around since the 1960s. Most of the time, they infect animals, but some strains infect humans. They cause mild common cold symptoms. Occasionally they cause pneumonia.

Why is this strain of coronavirus a public health concern?

This is a new or novel strain, so we don't know how it behaves. It's already demonstrated that it's changing or evolving, spreading from animals to humans, and now humans to humans. 

SARS and MERS, which came with high mortality rates in 2002 and 2012, also in the same coronavirus family.

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