By Hailey Auglair
LSU Manship School News Service
BATON ROUGE–Forty-three people have been tested for COVID-19 in Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Department of Health, and Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that he expects to see more than the six cases that have been reported in the state so far.
The six positive tests all involve people in the New Orleans area, and the cases are considered presumptive until they are confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control.
The earliest a vaccine could be made for the coronavirus would be in about 12 to 18 months, according to the Health Department.
Limited information about the six people who tested positive has been released due to privacy laws.
The virus affects the upper respiratory system with symptoms like fever and cough. Most people only have mild symptoms, but about 15% have severe symptoms, Dr. Alexander Billioux, assistant secretary for the Louisiana Department of Health, told legislators Wednesday.
The state Health Department said the overall mortality rate of the coronavirus seems to be less than 1%. The virus tends to be more severe for people over 60 and those with underlying medical conditions.
The department advises people to take the same precautions they would for the flu, like frequently washing hands and avoiding close contact with people who are ill.
“A lot of our advice is based on what we know about the flu,” said Dr. Jimmy Guidry, the state health officer. “People don’t take the flu seriously anymore,” he said, adding that many more people have died from the flu.
The state has the capacity for several hundred tests for the coronavirus. The CDC’s criteria have to be met for someone to be tested for it.
While there are no confirmed cases at LSU, university officials are watching developments closely and weighing the possibility of closing the school after spring break, which occurs during the week of March 22.
The officials asked students and faculty to curtail travel over the break, though they acknowledge it is likely some still will. Such travel could increase the risk of spreading the virus on campus.
“We are aware that other universities around the country are closing and/or moving to online classes,” university officials said in an email. “LSU is also considering these options, and last week, asked faculty members to prepare for the possibility of moving to an online format.”