How the CDC’s Test Kit Shortage and Failure to Develop an Accurate Test is Responsible for the Unknown Number of Infected in the U.S. — We are Flying Blind
From Stat News:
The discovery that a California woman was likely infected with the novel coronavirus by a previously unrecognized case in her community is proof of an enormous problem the country is facing at the moment, according to public health experts. It’s clear that the virus is spreading undetected in the United States — but how broadly it’s spreading is an utter mystery.
Before Thursday, a perfect storm of problems in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s development of test kits — and the agency’s reluctance to expand its recommendation of who should be tested given the limited availability of kits — meant very little testing has been done in the country. As of Wednesday, the CDC said that 445 people had been tested — a fraction of the number of tests that other countries have run.
It is the height of incompetence that the CDC has tested only 500 people for the Wuhan virus in the United States since the virus emerged from China.
To put this in perspective, Italy has tested thousands of people and South Korea has tested thousands and is getting ready to test 200,000 people.
But the United States, since the virus began, has only tested 500 Americans.
The CDC developed a test for the virus, mass-produced it and sent their test out to every state only to find that the test was inaccurate with a high number of false positives for the virus, so CDC recalled all the tests.
It is unclear if the CDC has developed an accurate test or if they have mass-produced it or when it will be widely available in all fifty states.
As reported The Daily Beast:
There’s also the question of available and effective diagnostic tests, which have been widely distributed by the thousands in countries like Italy and South Korea, but have encountered serious roadblocks in the U.S., where only about 500 people have been tested.
If you can’t test for the virus, you cannot tell if an asymptomatic patient has the virus, nor can you tell if a sick patient has the virus.
In fact, without a test, it is impossible to do the most basic step in a pandemic: early detection.
Early detection means testing people for the virus, plain and simple.
Right now, the entire U.S. pandemic surveillance system is blind, and CDC will not say when accurate test kits will be available.
The first patient who has the virus in California of “unknown origin,” was a woman who had been sick for weeks and was transferred to the second hospital because she was becoming sicker.
New details emerged Thursday about a COVID-19 case in Northern California that’s being called the first in the United States with no known connection to travel abroad or another known case.
The female patient, who is a resident of Solano County, first arrived at the NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville on Feb. 15 and spent three days there, according to the Washington Post.
After the patient’s condition worsened, she was transported to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento County on Feb. 19, but it wasn’t until four days later that the CDC heeded a request to test the patient for coronavirus, according to an email sent to employees Wednesday by the hospital’s interim CEO Brad Simmons and David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health.
No testing means a much high rate of infection of health workers and the public since those infected with the virus without showing symptoms but can still spread the infection will not know they are infected, so they can’t self-quarantine, and, those sick will not know they have the virus nor will the health workers around them, because there are not enough test kits to test everyone being self-quarantined.
From The Daily Beast:
“It spreads very rapidly because of the ease with which you can pass on this virus through respiratory droplets and surface spread,” said Dr. Adrian Hyzler, the chief medical officer for Healix International, which provides medical information to organizations whose clients travel internationally. “It would spread very rapidly on a crowded subway or metro system,” Hyzler said.
Simply put, the lack of testing means the number one rule when faced with a pandemic, early detection, cannot be followed.
Therefore, the lack of test kits will drive significant increases in the number of people infected — especially since this virus can be transmitted by people without symptoms, making it even more essential to test those who may have been exposed.
But we can’t.
By the time there are testing kits distributed, each day delay means the number of infected will be much higher than if there were the tens of thousands of test kits available that are needed right now, to test, for example, the 8400 people under voluntary quarantine in California and the unknown number of other Americans who are now ill and may have the virus, but health care workers can’t find out, because there are not enough test kits.