A new and rare pneumonia-like virus has caused at least two deaths, and has spread from China to other countries in Asia. Now, federal health officials are sending out teams of medical experts to screen passengers arriving from central China at three major airports in the U.S.
The additional health screenings will start at JFK on Friday night, but the CDC is also sending experts to airports in Los Angeles and San Francisco in hopes of preventing the spread of the mysterious coronavirus strain. There hasn’t been a similar screening effort in the U.S. since the Ebola outbreak in 2014.
“This is a new disease and information is really rapidly evolving and we are continuing to learn about it day by day,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control.
The focus will be on passengers on flights originating in Wuhan, China. So far, there have been 45 confirmed cases, and the disease has spread to Thailand and Japan, sparking a World Health Organization alert. Authorities believe it is rare for the virus to spread between humans.
The first case was reported on September 30. It’s believed the disease is linked to Wuhan’s large seafood and animal market.
“The earlier we can detect the virus the better we can understand it, and the better we can protect the American public,” Messonnier said.
It’s estimated that some 5,000 passengers will get the additional screening over the next few weeks, during which their temperatures will be taken and they’ll answer questions about their health. The CDC warns the process could take hours.
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