Belleville hospital refers patient for possible coronavirus infection

"Belleville Memorial Hospital has referred one patient to the Illinois Department of Public Health for testing and is expecting results in the next few days."

Digital Content Producer
February 27, 2020 - 11:18 am

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BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KFTK/AP) - A patient at Belleville Memorial Hospital who is at risk of having contracted the "coronavirus, or COVID-19" has been referred to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) for further testing. 

A spokesperson with BJC HealthCare, which runs the hospital, says patients may be referred for additional testing based on symptoms and travel history. There have been two confirmed cases of coronavirus in Illinois this year.

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A BJC spokeswoman wouldn’t say whether workers at the hospital who may have been exposed to the patient are on quarantine, but the hospital is still open.

The hospital released a statement, saying they expect to have "results in the next few days." 

"Following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, BJC HealthCare hospitals have processes in place to screen patients for risk of coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Based on medical symptoms and travel history, patients may be referred for further laboratory testing. Belleville Memorial Hospital has referred one patient to the Illinois Department of Public Health for testing and is expecting results in the next few days."

The hospital didn't provide information on the patient.

There are no proven treatments or vaccines for the new and mysterious virus, which has infected more than 80,000 people worldwide and killed more than 2,700, with the overwhelming majority of cases in China.

On Wednesday, the IDPH announced it will be working closely with local, state, and federal partners to successfully contain the virus in Illinois, with only two confirmed cases in the state. 

This story was first reported by our partner station, KMOX.


In the central China city of Wuhan, where the new coronavirus first exploded, 2% to 4% of patients have died, according to WHO. But in the rest of hard-hit China, the death rate was strikingly lower, 0.7%.

There’s nothing different about the virus from one place to another. Instead, the never-before-seen strain of coronavirus struck Wuhan fast — before anyone knew what the illness was — and overwhelmed health facilities. As is usual at the beginning of an outbreak, the first patients were severely ill before they sought care, Aylward said.

By the time people were getting sick in other parts of China, authorities were better able to spot milder cases — meaning there were more known infections for each death counted.

And while there are no specific treatments for COVID-19, earlier supportive care may help, too. China went from about 15 days between onset of symptoms and hospitalization early in the outbreak, to about three days more recently.

Still, Aylward expressed frustration at people saying: “'Oh, the mortality rate’s not so bad because there’s way more mild cases.' Sorry, the same number of people that were dying, still die.”


Until the past week, most people diagnosed outside of China had become infected while traveling there.

People who travel generally are healthier and thus may be better able to recover, noted Johns Hopkins University outbreak specialist Lauren Sauer. And countries began screening returning travelers, spotting infections far earlier in places where the medical system wasn’t already strained.

That’s now changing, with clusters of cases in Japan, Italy and Iran, and the death toll outside of China growing.

Aylward cautioned that authorities should be careful of “artificially high” death rates early on: Some of those countries likely are seeing the sickest patients at first and missing milder cases, just like Wuhan did.


A cousin of this new virus caused the far deadlier severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, and about 10% of SARS patients died.

Flu is a different virus family, and some strains are deadlier than others. On average, the death rate from seasonal flu is about 0.1%, said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

That's far lower than what has been calculated so far for COVID-19. But millions of people get the flu every year around the world, leading to an annual death toll in the hundreds of thousands.


Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung diseases, are more at risk.

Among younger people, deaths are rarer, Aylward said. But some young deaths have made headlines, such as the 34-year-old doctor in China who was reprimanded by communist authorities for sounding an early alarm about the virus only to later succumb to it.

In China, 80% of patients are mildly ill when the virus is detected, compared with 13% who already are severely ill. While the sickest to start with are at highest risk of death, Aylward said, a fraction of the mildly ill do go on to die — for unknown reasons.

On average, however, WHO says people with mild cases recover in about two weeks, while those who are sicker can take anywhere from three to six weeks.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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