7 patients with flu-like illness were an early sign that coronavirus was on the loose in L.A. County

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L.A. County-USC Medical Center is shown in this undated file photo. (Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

L.A. County-USC Medical Center is shown in this undated file photo. (Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

In late February, doctors around Los Angeles County began seeing an unexpected rise in the number of patients with mild, flu-like illnesses.

The timing was definitely odd. Hospital emergency departments had already dealt with two “spikes” in flu cases. The number of patients with flu symptoms had been falling, from a little more than 100 cases per 1,000 patients at the beginning of the month to around 65 cases per 1,000 a few weeks later. The number of lab tests that came back positive for influenza was dropping too.

Now health officials think it was an early sign that the novel coronavirus from China was on the loose in the Southland.

Health workers tested 131 of these patients who came to Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center between March 12 and March 16. Seven of them were infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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