CDC headquarters
Headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Courtesy CDC

Passengers arriving at Los Angeles International Airport from China continued to undergo health screenings Sunday due to a coronavirus outbreak that has infected dozens of people and killed at least two.

The Centers for Disease Control began conducting the health screenings Saturday at LAX, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and San Francisco International Airport.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring an outbreak caused by a novel (new) coronavirus in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China,” according to the CDC. “Chinese authorities identified the new coronavirus, which has resulted in more than 40 confirmed human infections in China with two deaths reported. A number of countries are actively screening incoming travelers from Wuhan, and there has been one exported case confirmed in Thailand and another in Japan.”

Heath Montgomery, a spokesman for Los Angeles World Airports, said airport officials have been in contact with the CDC since the announcement of the coronavirus outbreak, and the CDC will monitor inbound flights from the Wuhan City region.

“While LAX does not have a nonstop flight to Wuhan City, the CDC will be screening some arriving passengers who may have traveled to the area,” Montgomery said. “The safety and security of our guests and employees is our No. 1 priority, and we are ready to assist the CDC and local health officials. Additional questions about the screening process should be directed to the CDC.”

CDC officials said travelers from Wuhan will be escorted to a designated screening area of the airport to complete a Traveler Health Declaration form — a brief questionnaire that asks about travel history and symptoms, and collects contact information.

CDC staff will observe travelers for signs of illness and take body temperatures with thermometers that do not touch the skin.

People without symptoms but who have been in Wuhan City in the past two weeks will be given information for actions to take if symptoms appear at a later date. These travelers will continue to their final destination.

If a traveler has fever or other symptoms, that person will be evaluated by a CDC public health officer, which will include an evaluation of the traveler’s signs and symptoms and questions to assess their risk of exposure to the disease.

Sick travelers who are reasonably believed to be infected with or exposed to the new coronavirus will be transferred to a hospital for further assessment. The hospital will isolate the sick person, provide medical care as needed and work toward a diagnosis.

According to the CDC, Chinese health authorities posted the full genome of the so-called “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV” in GenBank, the National Institute of Health genetic sequence database, and in the Global Initiative on Sharing All Influenza Data portal.

Coronaviruses come from a “large family of viruses” that can cause illness in people, and others circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats, CDC officials said.

“Rarely, animal coronaviruses can evolve and infect people and then spread between people like MERS and SARS,” the CDC stated.

Most of the patients in the outbreak in Wuhan City said they had some exposure to large seafood and animal markets, which means it could be spread from animals to people, but some patients said they were not exposed to such conditions and therefore, there could be some “limited” person-to-person spreading of the virus, the CDC stated.

— City News Service

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.