January 17, 2020

The United States health officials Friday announced that they will start an enhanced health screening of foreign travelers entering the U.S. at three of the nation’s major international airports in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The enhanced health screening is taking effect in response to a current Novel Coronavirus (nCoV) outbreak in China, that has been exported to Thailand and Japan by travelers.

The nCoV, which origin is linked to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus—the virus that was responsible for the SARS pandemic that began in China nearly two decades ago, was discovered last month in Wuhan, China and has caused a cluster outbreak in the city.

The first illness case from the nCoV was reported by the Chinese government to the World Health Organization in December. Two other countries in Asia: Japan and Thailand, also each have reported a single case of nCoV, involving travelers from Wuhan. The travelers were hospitalized and currently in recovery.

According to the health officials from U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the illness causes severe flu-like symptoms and pneumonia in patients.

Two people from the city of Wuhan have died from the virus illness. The two deceased individuals were men, in their early 60s and and late 60s. They were admitted to the hospitals with symptoms of severe myocarditis and flu-like symptoms.

During a press call with journalists Friday’s afternoon, the CDC officials said presently there is no nCoV case in America and there is no risk to the American public. Regardless, the agency is acting proactively to put in place immediately an enhanced entry screening at three ports of entry into the country, which will be put into effect by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport, to spot ill travelers entering into America on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan, China.

The enhanced entry screenings at these airports will help slow or lessen the spread of the disease into U.S, the CDC officials said. In 2014 to 2015, enhanced health screenings were implemented at major U.S. international airports following a reported case of the Ebola virus in the U.S. The 2014 Ebola outbreak took place in three major West African nations, Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, with a few case in Nigeria and Ghana-imported by travelers from Liberia.

The WHO, a United Nations’ agency that is focused on international health, has issued guidance on how to detect and treat people that are ill with the nCoV disease, and urges other countries to continue observing and preparing for the contagion.

The WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in the coming days plans to call for a meeting with the agency’s Emergency Committee members.

The CDC officials said the origin of the nCoV virus are generally found in animals. Based on new information, the virus jumped species barrier— from animal to human, creating nCoV. Since the first nCoV was reported, there are few indications that the virus has begin to spread from human to human. 

The WHO and the CDC officials are working with the Chinese health officials and authorities to monitor the outbreak and get additional information about the virus. Several hundred Chinese health care workers that are providing treatments to nCoV patients are currently being monitored and no yet reported case of the virus spreading from patients to health care workers.

WHO also urges Chinese authorities to continue to investigate the source of the outbreak and that it is essential that investigations continue in China to identify the source of this outbreak and any animal reservoirs or intermediate hosts.