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Hospital admissions suggest most coronavirus cases go undetected in Houston area, NBC News report says

Healthcare professionals prepare to begin testing at a drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 at United Memorial Medical Center Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Houston. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Healthcare professionals prepare to begin testing at a drive-thru testing site for COVID-19 at United Memorial Medical Center Thursday, March 19, 2020, in Houston. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

HOUSTON – A report by NBC News is pointing out that while Houston hasn’t reported a surge of coronavirus cases, the hospital admissions across our area suggests most coronavirus cases have gone undetected in the Houston area.

The latest reported numbers are shown here.

Mike Hixenbaugh’s report notes that the city has not recorded cases on the level of New York and Detroit, giving people hope that stay-home orders were issued early enough, but anecdotal reporting from Houston health care professionals offers another picture.

Hixenbaugh writes, “While limited testing has prevented officials here and across the state from getting a complete accounting of how many people have been infected with the coronavirus, hospitals in greater Houston have seen a steep increase — 40 percent over four days — in the number of patients believed to be suffering from the virus, according to a daily census of hospital admissions collected by the SouthEast Texas Regional Advisory Council, which helps coordinate emergency response efforts.”

Hixenbaugh also noted that the 25-county region surrounding Houston had reported fewer than 950 confirmed coronavirus cases among its 9.3 million residents as of Monday.

“But on that same day,” the report reads, “there were 996 people hospitalized in the region with confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19, according to the advisory council count. That figure is not cumulative and does not include patients with COVID-19 who were hospitalized and released before Monday.”

Dr. Peter Hotez, an infectious disease expert and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, notes that the disconnect between the number of positive test results and the number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 suggests that a significant majority of coronavirus cases are going undetected here.

“We know that about 1 in 5 or 1 in 10 COVID-19 patients needs to be hospitalized,” Hotez told NBC News. “So what you’re seeing in hospital admissions would suggest that the actual number of cases could be 5 to 10 times higher in Texas than what’s been reported to this point.”

For the full report, go to NBCNews.com.


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