Jan 17, 2020

U.S. to begin airport screening for new China virus as concerns grow

A quarantine station at Narita Airport in Japan on Jan. 17 after Japanese officials confirmed a case of pneumonia caused by the coronavirus originally found in Wuhan City, China. Photo: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The U.S. will begin screening Friday night for the novel coronavirus, originally found in Wuhan, China, for flights arriving directly or indirectly from there to three American airports — San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles, public health officials announced.

Why it matters: Researchers still don't know the source of the "2019-nCoV" virus or how it's transmitted, but coronavirus' ability to evolve means the outbreak could quickly turn from "worrisome to extremely worrisome," and "proactive measures" should be taken, Nancy Messonnier told a press conference.

Background: The virus was originally reported Dec. 30 by Chinese health officials in Wuhan — a large city with more than 11 million people.

  • There are more than 40 known cases of the virus, which has killed two people and spread to at least two more countries, with two cases in Thailand and one in Japan from people who had been in Wuhan.
  • Chinese health authorities fully sequenced the virus and the data is now in the NIH's database GenBank and in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data (GISAID) portal.
  • The CDC and other global health organizations have urged health officials in Wuhan to begin exit screening at their airports to look for possibly infected people before they board an airline. Just before the press conference ended, Martin Cetron, director of the CDC's division of global migration and quarantine, said new reports indicate this may have already started.

The latest: Starting Friday night, the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will implement enhanced health screenings to detect ill travelers en route to the U.S. on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan to SFO, JFK, and LAX airports.

  • Passengers will receive a questionnaire asking about symptoms and will have their temperatures taken. If there are concerns, the passenger and family members will be taken to a separate facility for further testing and care.
  • The CDC has testing available based on the virus' genome, but should "imminently" have new diagnostics available, Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, adds.

What we don't know: Researchers are trying to determine where the virus originated, if it can be transmitted from person-to-person, and how long the incubation period may be.

  • Per the CDC, most Wuhan patients are linked to a large seafood and animal market, "suggesting animal-to-person spread." But, others did not have this exposure, which suggests "some limited person-to-person spread may be occurring."
  • Coronaviruses are particularly tricky because they are found in animals and humans, and the cases where animal-to-human infections lead to human-to-human infections can be severe, as seen in SARS and MERS coronavirus infections.

The bottom line: "It's highly plausible there will be a case in the U.S. and that's why we are moving forward to new screening," Messonnier says.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Deadly coronavirus from China found in U.S. patient, CDC says

An airport officer walks past international travelers arriving at Los Angeles International Airport on the first day of health screenings for coronavirus of people coming from Wuhan, China, Jan. 18. Photo: David McNew/stringer/Getty Images

The first U.S. case of the new coronavirus that's killed at least six people and caused illness in multiple countries has been confirmed in Washington state.

The latest: In an effort to stem the spread of the deadly virus in America, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is rolling out a "funneling" of flights directly or indirectly from Wuhan, China, to five specific airports where screenings will be done, adding Chicago and Atlanta to prior designated screening airports.

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020

6 Americans now confirmed with coronavirus, CDC says

Stuart Marcus, chief clinical officer of Amita Health Chicago, briefs the media regarding the second confirmed case of Wuhan Coronavirus in the U.S., Jan. 24, outside St. Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates, Illinois. Photo: Derek R. Henkle/AFP via Getty Images

Six Americans — in California (2), Arizona, Washington state, and Chicago (2) — have the novel coronavirus that's been spreading from China, as of Thursday according to the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention.

What they're saying: "We need to prepare as if this is a pandemic, but we hope it is not," Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease told a press conference on Sunday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jan 30, 2020

Americans still have low risk of coronavirus infection, CDC says

National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Nancy Messonnier speaks during a press conference on the coordinated response to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The risk of U.S. residents becoming infected by the coronavirus that's devastating China remains low right now, public health officials said Monday, even as there's growing pressure to ramp up U.S. and international pandemic preparedness.

Go deeperArrowJan 27, 2020