A resident of New York City who recently came back from a trip to Italy is being tested for COVID-19, more commonly known as the novel coronavirus, according to officials.
The city's Department of Health says the person reported having symptoms of the virus that has killed more than 2,800 people worldwide, the Centers for Disease Control says. Symptoms of the illness include fever, coughing and shortness of breath — not dissimilar to other illnesses.
Symptoms are likely to appear as soon as two days after exposure, or up to two weeks later, according to the CDC.
So far in the tri-state, there have been no confirmed cases of the illness that has now been found on every continent except Antarctica. NYC Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot says that due to the federal government expanding its criteria for virus testing to include Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea, more people are expected to be tested.
"Viruses don’t respect borders and this broader definition will help us cast a wider net to detect the virus. We expect the number of cases under investigation to grow," Barbot said.
The person being tested spent time in Italy recently, which has had more than 500 confirmed cases as the outbreak has hit the northern portion of that country particularly hard. More than a dozen people have died in the region as a result.
New York City's Bellevue Hospital is one of several local medical centers that are preparing for a possible outbreak. It is home to 1,200 beds that could be readily available in case the virus becomes widespread, according to Mayor de Blasio.
What is not readily available – that despite requests from the local government – is the ability to test those with the potential virus here in New York City. On Friday, the New Jersey Department of Health announced that a lab in West Trenton had been approved to test for the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The New Jersey Public Health Environmental Laboratories can now test those presenting with symptoms.
Meanwhile, the NYC patient's sample is being sent to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta for testing, and it could take up to 48 hours for the results.
As of Thursday, there were 60 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., most of which stemmed from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. However, the latest case is a cause for concern for doctors, as the woman did not travel internationally before she exhibited symptoms.
That woman was put in isolation and on a ventilator at UC Davis Medical Center in Northern California. She did not have any contact with any people who are known to be infected, either. Her testing was initially delayed for days because she didn't meet federal criteria.
While health experts maintain that the risk of getting the COVID-19 virus is low, spread of the illness is inevitable.