BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Louisiana Office of Public Health Laboratory in Baton Rouge is the only lab in the state that can test for COVID-19, commonly known as the coronavirus.
WAFB’s Lester Duhé was given a tour of the laboratory and shown how scientists test for COVID-19.
“We are preparing as if it’s a matter of when, not if,” said Dr. Joseph Kanter with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH).
Health officials with LDH say the facility only tests samples from patients, meaning if you believe you have symptoms of the coronavirus, you need to contact your primary care doctor.
LDH officials say a doctor will collect specimens for the lab by swabbing a patient’s nose. The sample is then sent to the Public Health Laboratory, where scientists test the sample for the coronavirus.
Only when a doctor believes the patient meets certain criteria will they be tested for the virus.
”What they do is get a good history from that patient, figure out what the risk factors are, and then they [doctors] call the Office of Public Health, and in conjunction with the CDC, and the guidelines that are out there, they decide whether or not this individual meets the criteria to become a person under investigation,” said Dr. Kanter.
Once the kits arrive at the Office of Public Health Laboratory, they’ll head to the lab to be checked into the database. From there, the samples will head to a testing laboratory, where scientists will see if the virus is detected.
“If that’s positive, we will consider that a presumptive positive, send that sample on to the CDC in Atlanta. They’ll do confirmatory testing, let us know if it confirms positive, but we’re not going to wait for that. The second that we get our first presumptive positive, we’re going to act as if it is 100% positive and start isolation and contact tracing, and all the things that we would do as if it were confirmed,” said Dr. Kanter.
If the coronavirus is detected, top LDH officials are notified immediately. The public health laboratory is also capable of testing for other diseases.
Doctors recommend you wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, and avoid touching your face, eyes, and mouth with your hands.
If you think you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call your primary care physician. They’ll tell you what you need to do, and your doctor will ask you to come in if you need to be tested.
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