The Alabama Department of Public Health announced Friday it now has the capability to test for COVID-19. Prior to the announcement, the state health agency routed tests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
“While the risk of this new coronavirus disease remains low in Alabama, we have been working diligently to prepare for any cases that may occur,” state health officer Dr. Scott Harris said. No cases of coronavirus have been reported in Alabama.
UAB expects to have its own coronavirus test available in the next week or two. In a briefing to reporters Friday, Dr. Molly Fleece, assistant professor in UAB’s Division of Infectious Diseases, said the hospital has been preparing for months.
“We have plans in place and we are perpetually working on outbreak situations, simulations, screenings, and our response if we do get a case of COVID-19 in our health system.”
UAB is testing a vaccine for the disease in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health. “It has gone through animal model testing and looks to be fairly promising,” Fleece said. Researchers hope to begin human trials in a month or two, she said, but vaccines take a long time to produce. She said the vaccine’s availability on the market is at least a year away.
In the meantime, UAB continues to take precautions to prevent the spread of the disease. Hospital officials ask people with symptoms to call before going in. “If you are experiencing symptoms, call your primary care physician or urgent care facility first.”
Patients with upcoming appointments are receiving recorded calls from UAB urging them to stay away if they’ve visited a country in the last 14 days with known coronavirus or if they’ve been in direct contact with someone suspected of having the disease. Those patients are asked to instead call 205-934-9999 for guidance.
COVID-19 symptoms include fever, runny nose, dry cough, shortness of breath, fatigue and body aches.
Gov. Kay Ivey on Friday announced the establishment of a COVID-19 task force. The group is comprised of state officials and disease specialists which will make recommendations to the governor.
Two students at Jacksonville State University were recently exposed to coronavirus in Georgia, school officials announced Friday. Health officials and administrators at JSU are monitoring the situation closely. The students show no symptoms.
Here are a few links containing updates and information on how to prevent the spread of coronavirus: