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11 Americans at Omaha facility tested positive for coronavirus, hospital says

The building that houses the quarantine unit at Nebraska Medical Center is seen in this Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 photo in Omaha, Neb. The center is treating patients potentially exposed to COVID-19 virus. (AP Photo/Josh Funk)

OMAHA, Neb. (CNN) — Most of the Americans who were being monitored at the University of Nebraska Medical Center for coronavirus after evacuating a cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the virus, the hospital says.

UNMC said in a statement Thursday that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verified the Nebraska Public Health Lab results showing that 11 of the 13 patients have the novel coronavirus. The other two evacuees who were taken to the Omaha hospital tested negative, the statement said.

The hospital had said some of the patients had tested positive in Japan but some “came with a lack of clarity what their test results were,” Shelly Schwedhelm told CNN. Schwedhelm is the UNMC/Nebraska Medical Executive Director of Emergency Management and Biopreparedness who has clinical oversight of the quarantine and biocontainment units.

Several people are exhibiting minor symptoms but others are not showing any symptoms, the release said.

Bert Kelly, a CDC spokesman, told CNN that the agency has verified the results, bringing the total of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States to 26.

The US Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness Response asked UNMC early Monday to take in 13 patients who had either tested positive, or had a high likelihood of testing positive, for the novel coronavirus.

The patients had been on a cruise ship docked off the cost of Japan for two weeks.

UNMC was commissioned by the CDC in 2005 to create the biocontainment unit where three patients currently are. The rest of the patients are in a separate federal quarantine center on the campus that UNMC built through a private-public partnership.

In 2014, UNMC successfully treated three patients with Ebola, and the medical facility has the capacity to manage other highly infectious diseases such as SARS, monkeypox and multidrug-resistant tuberculosis.

CORRECTION: A prior version of this story used an incorrect acronym for the University of Nebraska Medical Center, or UNMC.