Passengers flying into three of the busiest US airports from Wuhan, China, or via connecting flights will be screened for a deadly new virus that has sickened dozens in China and already spread in Southeast Asia.
US health and immigration officials will start screening passengers from Wuhan for symptoms such as coughs and fever Friday night at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. San Francisco International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport will be added to the screening on Saturday.
There are expected to be about 5,000 passengers arriving in the next few weeks during the Chinese Lunar New Year, the peak travel time for the 60,000 people who come from Wuhan each year, said Martin Cetron, director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of global migration and quarantine.
The agency is taking aggressive action after previous outbreaks of novel viruses from abroad, including severe acute respiratory syndrome, known as SARS, which emerged in 2003, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS, which appeared in 2012. The agency last screened airline passengers during the Ebola outbreak in western Africa from 2014 to 2016.
The outbreak of the new coronavirus in China appears to be linked to an outdoor seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, with most of the 45 patients diagnosed so far reporting ties to the facility, which was recently closed for screening. While there have only been two reported deaths, the virus seems to be moving quickly, with four new cases reported in China within the past hour or so, CDC officials said. In addition, two cases have been reported in Thailand and one in Japan, all of whom had traveled to Wuhan.