Skip to Main Content
Skip Nav Destination

3 airports to screen passengers for new coronavirus amid outbreak :

January 17, 2020

Editor's note:  For the latest coverage of coronavirus, visit

Health officials will start screening passengers arriving at three major U.S. airports from Wuhan, China, amid an outbreak of a new respiratory virus in that city.

The screening will begin today at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Saturday at Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport. About 5,000 travelers are expected to be impacted by the screening in the next few weeks.

“The earlier we detect a case, the better we can protect the public and the more we can understand about this virus and its risk for spread,” said Martin Cetron, M.D., director of the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In late December, China reported an outbreak of a respiratory virus linked to a seafood and live animal market in Wuhan and since has identified it as a new coronavirus. Symptoms include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

China has reported 45 cases, including two older adults who have died. Two cases have been reported in Thailand and one in Japan, all of whom traveled from Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people and a major transportation hub.

While most of the cases have involved animal-to-person transmission, the CDC said there is limited evidence of human-to-human spread.

Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases,said the pathogen is genetically similar to those that caused outbreaks of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

“This is a serious situation,” Dr. Messonnier said. “We have faced this challenge before, first with SARS and later with MERS. Both outbreaks were complex and required a comprehensive public health response. Because of that experience, we know it is crucial to be proactive and prepared.”

While she said a U.S. case is likely, “based on the information CDC has today, we believe the current risk from this virus to the general public is low.”

Clinicians should be vigilant for travelers from Wuhan with respiratory symptoms and take infection-control precautions with people who may be infected. They should collect nasopharyngeal, nasal, throat swab and lower respiratory tract specimens from these patients and consider saving urine, stool, serum and respiratory pathology specimen, according to a recent CDC health advisory. Clinicians should notify infection control, state and location health departments immediately. States then should contact the CDC at 770-488-7100.

Close Modal

or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal