Wisconsin Now Conducting Tests for COVID-19 Virus
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) and the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (State Lab) announced today that the State Lab is now conducting tests for the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 is the novel coronavirus that surfaced in Wuhan, China in late 2019 and has infected people across the world, including more than a dozen people in United States and one person in Wisconsin. The City of Milwaukee Health Department laboratory also has the capability to perform this test. Test samples previously were sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. Positive test results identified by the State Lab and the City of Milwaukee Health Department lab will be presumed positive and sent to the CDC for confirmation.
“While the risk of getting COVID-19 in Wisconsin remains low, having the ability to test at the State Lab and the City of Milwaukee Health Department lab will allow for faster results to let people with symptoms of the illness know with certainty if they have COVID-19,” said Jeanne Ayers, State Health Officer and Administrator of the DHS Division of Public Health. “Faster test results will also help our epidemiologists and local health departments monitor people suspected of having the virus and other people who may have been exposed to it."
People must meet certain criteria for testing for COVID-19, including having symptoms of the virus, such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, and having traveled to areas where the infection is active (China, Iran, South Korea, Italy) within 14 days of when symptoms began or having had contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case. Additionally, people having severe lower respiratory illness that requires hospitalization, along with no other positive tests for influenza or other respiratory diseases may be considered for COVID-19 testing.
The test being performed at the State Lab and the City of Milwaukee Health Department lab is the redesigned CDC test that has FDA Emergency Use Authorization. Test performance has been verified in both labs.
We are working with our partners from other state agencies, local and tribal health offices, and the health care community to prepare in the event COVID-19 becomes a pandemic. Schools and businesses should have plans prepared to inform students, staff, and employees of steps that will be taken in the event of a pandemic. Planning information for businesses and schools can be found on the CDC website. Businesses and other employers should prepare to institute flexible workplace and leave policies for employees who are ill or need to stay home to care for sick family members or to care for children if they are dismissed from school.
COVID-19 is a virus. As with any virus, such as influenza or a cold, you must take steps to avoid catching and spreading the infections. You should:
- Frequently and thoroughly wash your hands.
- Cover coughs and sneezes.
- Stay home when you are sick.
As influenza remains active in Wisconsin, you should get a flu shot if you already haven't gotten one.
This is a rapidly evolving situation and guidance may change. We encourage the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website