CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WVVA) West Virginia's public health lab has yet to verify the testing kit for the Coronavirus, but expects to complete that process in the next few weeks, a spokesperson for the Dept. of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) confirmed on Monday.
The spokesperson said West Virginia will receive one diagnostic panel initially, which can test between 700-800 patient specimens. So far, West Virginia has received a single kit for its state public health lab to detect the virus. However, the spokesperson said commercial labs are working to develop their own tests that would be available to hospitals.
"Currently testing for COVID-19 is centralized through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and must be approved by the DHHR's Division of Infectious Disease Epidemiology. The test kits are currently for state public health laboratories, not hospitals or other primary care settings."
As of Monday, the spokesperson said there were still no confirmed cases of the virus, now referred to as COVID-19, in West Virginia.
While West Virginia's public health lab does not have the ability to test for the virus just yet, experts at Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital said Monday that does not mean local patients cannot be tested.
Dr. Zonaira Gul, an Infectious Disease expert, said local health professionals have the ability to send off samples to one of the CDC's network university hospitals for testing should the need arise.
"If our suspicion for Coronavirus is high, we're supposed to get in touch with the local health department which will get in touch with CDC."
As always, she said prevention is paramount for health professionals and paying close attention to a patient's travel history.
"Look for where the person is traveling from and see if there could be any potential for that person to be exposed to the infection."
As health officials continue to follow the virus' progression closely, she said it will be up to the local health departments to coordinate the response.
"The most important thing is awareness around the public...not to panic but to raise awareness."