US hospitals in five cities will now test anyone with flu symptoms but is negative for the common seasonal virus for the novel coronavirus spreading China, officials said Friday.
Previously, only people with a recent travel history to China were tested for the virus which has now sickened 15 people in the US.
The Netherlands is the only other country outside China to initiate such widespread testing.
Now, labs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York City will test samples taken from anyone who tests negative for flu for the new coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19.
CDC officials said on Friday that they will test any patients in Seattle, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco who have flu symptoms but are negative for the virus for the new coronavirus - after admitting the tests they sent to states may be faulty
However, the US admitted Wednesday that some of the kits it had shipped to some 200 labs might be faulty after the diagnostic tool returned 'inconclusive results in some of the states' quality-assurance tests.
CDC officials said that they were remanufacturing a reagent they believe is at fault for the problems with the test, but it's unclear if, when or to where the replacement component has been shipped.
Coronaviruses - including COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and those the cause the common cold - share very similar symptoms with flu.
All of these respiratory illnesses tend to bring on fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If these infections persist, patients may develop pneumonia.
Flu is an annual pandemic, and this season is already a bad one.
Already, flu has killed more than 90 children in the US, a disturbingly high toll for a season that may have another full month or more to go
Similar though their symptoms may be, COVID-19 and flu are caused by entirely different viruses.
US hospitals and clinics are broadly equipped to do rapid flu tests or send out samples