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South Korea’s broad coronavirus testing strategy could flatten curve in some US areas, expert says

A South Korean soldier carrying a banner studying “Covid-19 Free” and a protecting masks stands at a temperature screening level at Incheon International Airport in Incheon, South Korea, on Monday, March 9, 2020.

SeongJoon Cho | Bloomberg | Getty Images

“Broad testing” of individuals for the coronavirus as was done in South Korea might considerably gradual the unfold of the illness in elements of the United States that now have comparatively few circumstances of COVID-19, an infectious illnesses professional stated Tuesday.

But it stays to be seen whether or not sufficient dependable coronavirus exams and adequate provides of associated gear will be deployed in these areas, which embody giant swaths of the Western U.S., shortly sufficient to flatten the illness’s upward curve there.

South Korea has been lauded for pulling down a COVID-19 outbreak after using an aggressive technique of testing greater than 440,000 individuals for the virus, together with different mitigation measures.

The United States presently is engaged in an emergency effort to “flatten the curve,” or the speed of improve in new COVID-19 circumstances, with a purpose to keep away from overwhelming the capability of hospital techniques and to decrease the demise charge from the virus.

Dr. Angela Caliendo stated Tuesday that South Korea’s expertise “shows you the importance of testing.”

“I do think the testing they did in South Korea was very important in controlling their outbreak,” stated Caliendo, an infectious illnesses professor at Brown University’s Alpert Medical School.

With their widespread testing program, South Korean authorities had been in a position to determine contaminated individuals, isolate them and hint their contacts with different individuals, who then additionally could possibly be examined.

If the United States had enough testing, “you could consider areas of the country that are at different points of the virus” unfold development, Caliendo stated throughout a name with reporters organized by the Infectious Diseases Society of America.

And if these areas’ residents obtained “more broad testing” than the degrees seen elsewhere within the U.S. “you could imagine where you would mimic, in some regions at least” the expertise of South Korea in suppressing the unfold of COVID-19, she stated.

“There are areas in this country that have not been hit” to the identical extent as different areas, she famous.

Caliendo stated that South Korea benefited from having a number of corporations that produce chemical reagents utilized in virus testing.

Getting broad-based testing of Americans might take a while.

Dr. Kimberly Hanson, a professor of pathology on the University of Utah School of Medicine, stated on the convention name that presently, in contrast to the early days of the outbreak within the U.S., there are about two dozen forms of coronavirus exams out there for quickly screening individuals.

“Our goal is to test everybody who has symptoms in the community,” Hanson stated. “We don’t have enough testing right now where we are able to test everybody who is symptomatic, but we are ramping up really well.”

But within the meantime, she stated, “The main limitation we’re facing now is actually having shortages of other pieces around the tests themselves,” resembling swabs and tubes to gather samples.

“We’ve faced some serious shortages of swabs,” Hanson stated. “We have colleagues who are faced with shortages of the reagents.”

Hanson additionally famous that states which have been “hotbeds” of COVID-19 outbreaks are looking for extra testing achieved than elsewhere. Data reviewed by CNBC reveals broad variations within the quantity of exams per capita all through the U.S.

A lot of states that might, as Caliendo steered, see a decrease outbreak curve in the event that they adopted a South Korea-type testing routine are amongst these states with the bottom variety of exams per capita presently.

Both Hanson and Caliendo talked about the necessity to enhance the standard of testing.

“Overall, what we have on our hands right now are good tests, but no test is perfect,” Caliendo stated.

And she famous that the extent of expertise of the particular person performing the take a look at can have an effect on the specimen high quality

The medical doctors stated it will likely be notably essential to enhance serological exams, which may reveal whether or not individuals who do not need signs of COVID-19 have developed antibodies for the illness, and who might transmit the virus to others. Results of serological exams take longer than speedy exams.

“Ideally, we’re going to need to couple acute diagnoses” from speedy screening exams “with serologic testing,” Hanson stated.

“Because they will give us an idea of who is left in our community who is at risk of developing an infection,” she stated.

She stated that having a transparent image of how many individuals are carrying the virus “will be very important to determining” by the autumn and winter “where we need to limit people’s social interactions.”

Caliendo stated there “are are a couple of” serological exams authorised on an emergency use foundation by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “right now.”

But, she added, “We don’t know how well they perform.”

Caliendo identified that “typically, antibodies take a week or so to form.”

“You will have patients who have infections … but who do not have antibodies” that will present up when they’re examined, Caliendo stated.

That means exams carried out in later weeks of infections may be higher at assessing total an infection charges.

Hanson added that one other issue to think about is the open query of whether or not an individual who has developed antibodies to COVID-19 can develop the illness once more.

“We still need to work out what developing an antibody response means, whether it’s protective or not,” Hanson stated.

During a information convention Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state presently has essentially the most variety of COVID-19 circumstances within the U.S., emphasised the necessity to enhance speedy testing capability in order that New York and surrounding states can begin returning to regular life.

“You have to have that testing, and you have to have that testing on scale,” Cuomo stated, referring to the forms of exams that may decide whether or not somebody has the coronavirus inside 15 minutes.

“We have about a 50,000-person testing capacity, which is nice but not of a scale that’s going to make a large difference.”

He stated that no single personal firm presently has the capability to provide sufficient speedy coronavirus exams to fulfill the quantity that can must be achieved.

Cuomo inspired corporations which may be capable of improve their capability to contact New York state’s Empire Development Corp., which is keen to fund corporations for that effort.

Cuomo additionally stated that the New York state Health Department has developed and authorised testing for coronavirus antibodies, however added that such testing capability must be elevated.

— Additional reporting by Noah Higgins-Dunn.

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