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Health Officials In Kansas And Missouri Are On Alert For The Coronavirus

Associated Press
Passengers arriving on a China Southern Airlines flight from Changsha, in China are screened for the new type of coronavirus upon their arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Jan. 29.

Kansas health officials are waiting for test results after a patient in Lawrence reported symptoms of the coronavirus.

Local health officials are now more closely monitoring the possible spread of the virus.

"Diseases are just an airplane ride away,"  said Nancy Tausz, health services division director of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) said the test kit from Lawrence has been sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

"We've had an all-hands meeting with the people from the local health department, the hospital where the patient is in isolation and at the state here at KDHE," KDHE Secretary Lee Norman said in a video distributed by the department. "I think we have a really good plan for monitoring this particular patient."

Kansas City hospitals, doctor's offices and clinics are now asking patients whether they've been to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak is thought to have originated. 

Kansas City Health Department Director Rex Archer said fire department paramedics are also on alert.

"If you're picking somebody in an ambulance, do they meet the case definition in regards to having been to China or having either the fever or the cough?" he said.

Archer said he has canceled vacations for health department staff until they have a better idea of just how the coronavirus will spread.

The CDC on Wednesday expanded screening for the virus to 20 airports, but not in Kansas or Missouri. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services indicated it may post signs at airports with information about the virus.

"We are awaiting federal guidance at this time from the CDC," department spokeswoman Lisa Cox said in an email. "That signage would be what CDC has provided to airports already involved in screening passengers."

Sam Zeff is KCUR's metro reporter. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samzeff.

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