Federal authorities use an “early warning system”; San Francisco flu patients to be tested for coronavirus – CBS San Francisco

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) - Calling it an "early warning system", Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar announced Friday that flu patients in San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago would also undergo tests for the coronavirus.In an interview with CNBC, Azar said that the threat of the disease was fairly low, but that this status could always change quickly.

"We are deploying the full force of the United States government to protect the health and safety of the American people," he said.

In China, the disease left 63,851 people sick at the end of Thursday, up 5,090 from the previous day. The death toll rose to 1,380.

California has recorded the most confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, with nine of these four in the Bay Area. There were two confirmed cases in Santa Clara County and a husband and wife from San Benito County were being treated at UC-San Francisco hospital.

Flu symptoms can be very similar to those of the coronavirus, so Azar said his agency had rolled out an "early warning system" on Thursday, ordering coronavirus flu patients to be screened in five cities.

"We are using our influenza surveillance network in Seattle, San Francisco, LA, Chicago and New York, where people with flu-like symptoms or Chinese coronavirus will be tested not only for influenza but also for Chinese coronavirus", he told CNBC. "This way we have an early warning system. We have no epidemiological reason to believe that we have cases there, but we do want to be careful. "

Later today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the tests would not take place in hospitals but in samples sent to five public health labs in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago.

CDC spokesman Richard Quartarone said his agency will release more details on how the testing program will be deployed next week.

Azar also said his agency is closely monitoring the growing coronavirus epidemic in Singapore, where 67 cases have been confirmed.

"We access information hour by hour," he said when asked about the Singapore epidemic and possible travel restrictions. "We will take the necessary action if the data supports it. With Singapore, one of the questions is whether we are witnessing a true multi-generational spread of the community ... or if we are really seeing a first generation cluster that is really not that kind of multi-generational spread. We have to get to the bottom of it. "

FULL COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS EPIDEMIC

Several news agencies reported on Friday that a man on United Airlines flight 901 from San Francisco to London was removed from the plane on Friday on a stretcher after showing signs of coronavirus.

According to passenger reports on social media, the sick traveler was isolated in the back of the plane and then transported to the hospital. The other passengers had to fill out a Health England contact form and were then allowed to disembark.

Zeng Yixin, vice director of the National Health Commission in China, announced Friday that more than 1,700 Chinese medical workers have been infected with the new virus.

Six of the workers died, Zeng said at a press conference.

The health committee is "very concerned about this issue" and has published guidelines for the prevention and control of infections in medical institutions, he said.

Medical workers account for about 3.8% of the cases confirmed three days ago, said Zeng.

BREAKDOWN ALSO FRIDAY MORNING

Elsewhere, Japan has confirmed seven other cases, one day after reporting its first death from the virus. Japan now has 258 confirmed cases, including 218 from a cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Yokohama.

Health officials on Friday authorized 11 elderly passengers to leave the ship after testing negative for the virus. They are the first group of dozens of older passengers who should leave the ship before the end of their 14-day quarantine period on February 19 to reduce the risk of their health deteriorating.

Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Thursday that passengers 80 years of age or older with chronic health conditions or in windowless cabins that can open will be able to leave the ship if they pass the screening test. virus.

More than 580 cases have been confirmed outside of mainland China and three deaths, one each in the Philippines and Hong Kong and now a Japanese woman in her 40s. Health authorities are investigating how she was infected.

© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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