New report highlights the limits for coronavirus screening tests

New report highlights the limits for coronavirus screening tests
Written by Leon

Two German citizens who appeared healthy when they were evacuated from Wuhan, China, in early February were actually infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and may have been able to spread it to others, according to a medical report released Tuesday.

The findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, underscore the limitations of health screenings that have been implemented around the world in the hope of containing the new virus.

Health representatives began screening travelers from China in mid-January, a few weeks after the outbreak began. Those arriving at US airports, for example, are checked for signs of fever, cough or respiratory distress to determine if they require further evaluation at a medical facility.

The two Germans were part of a group of 126 people who flew from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, to Frankfurt, Germany, on February 1.

Six of the passengers were isolated during the flight because they had symptoms that were compatible with coronavirus infection. Two other passengers were relatives of those who joined them in isolation, and another two were separated because they had been in contact with someone who tested positive for the virus.

On arrival in Germany, the ten passengers were sent to the University Hospital in Frankfurt. Throat sticks and sputum samples were tested for a genetic adaptation to the virus using a RT-PCR analysis is sanctioned by the World Health Organization. In all 10 cases, the test results were negative.

The other 116 passengers were evaluated by medical personnel at Frankfurt Airport. The traveler’s noses and throats were examined and their temperatures were taken. They were also asked about a variety of symptoms, including muscle pain, cough, fatigue and diarrhea.

One passenger had a fever of 101 degrees and was taken to the same hospital as the others. Later that person also tested negative for coronavirus.

The remaining 115 passengers were transferred to Germersheim Military Quarter for a 14-day quarantine. Although they showed no signs of illness, they were offered a test to see if they were infected. All but one of them agreed to take the RT-PCR analysis.

Two of these 114 travelers turned out to be infected, the results revealed. Officials then repeated the tests and got the same result. The diagnosis was also confirmed by a couple of commercial tests.

Not only were both travelers infected, but how their samples grew in laboratory dishes showed that they had the potential to infect others, according to the report.

“We discovered that the release of potentially infectious virus can occur in people who have no fever and no signs or only minor signs of infection,” wrote the team led by Dr. Sebastian Hoehl from University Hospital Frankfurt.

That’s the bad news. The good news is that none of the travelers became very ill. They were taken to the hospital and thoroughly evaluated, but all the doctors showed was “a weak rash” and something in one of their throats.

One week after the introduction, both patients were fine and had no fever, the doctors wrote.

As of Tuesday, more than 73,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed around the world and 1,800 people have died. There have been 16 confirmed cases and no deaths in Germany,

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