U.S. to screen passengers for new China coronavirus at 3 airports

The United States will begin screening at three major airports people coming from central Chinese city of Wuhan for the newly-identified coronavirus that has killed two people and infected at least 40 more in China, public health officials said on Friday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the screening for direct arrivals at New York City’s JFK International Airport is expected later Friday followed by screenings on Saturday at San Francisco International Airport. The third airport is Los Angeles International Airport.

The risk from the coronavirus to Americans is deemed to be low, the CDC said.

While the U.S. State Department has issued a health alert update about travel to the Wuhan region, the CDC has urged citizens travelling in the region to avoid contact with animals, animal markets or animal products, among other precautions.

Elsewhere, Thailand has found a second case of a new Chinese coronavirus, authorities said on Friday, as they ramped up checks on Chinese visitors, nearly a million of whom are expected for Lunar New Year holidays next week.

The latest patient is from China’s central city of Wuhan, which has reported 41 cases of pneumonia potentially linked to the new type of virus, with two deaths, as hospitals worldwide scramble to guard against any spread.

Travellers from China’s Wuhan pass by body temperature scanners at Narita airport near Tokyo on Thursday. The U.S. is introducing screening for passengers arriving from Wuhan, officials announced on Friday. (Kyodo News/Getty Images)

The 74-year-old woman, quarantined since arriving in Thailand on Monday, was found to be infected, health officials said.

“We’re very confident that we can control the spread of this kind of diseases,” Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul told reporters, adding that the situation was under control and there was no outbreak in Thailand. “We’re fully alert.”

The two Chinese patients were now safe but needed to go through a few more procedures before Thai authorities could let them return home, he added.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Thailand, which is on high alert ahead of the Lunar New Year holidays, said on Monday it had found a 61-year-old Chinese woman carrying a strain of the coronavirus, the first time it was detected outside China.

Japan reported its first case of the infection on Thursday, after a Japanese man returned from visiting Wuhan, known for picturesque lakes.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said the virus could spread and warned hospitals against it.

Thai health officials have stepped up monitoring at four airports receiving daily flights from Wuhan — Suvarnabhumi, Don Muang, Chiang Mai and Phuket — and others that receive charter flights from the Chinese city.

Since Jan. 3, Thailand has screened 13,624 passengers.

Health officials also asked Thai AirAsia and China Southern Airlines, which run direct daily flights from Wuhan, to halt boarding by those suffering from high fever and respiratory symptoms, and reschedule their flights.

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CBC | Health News