HONOLULU(KHON2)–A highly unusual step for the Centers for Disease Control–they’ll be screening three airports for symptoms of a mysterious new virus.
One thousand staffers are being sent to New York City’s JFK International, San Francisco International and LAX.
Passengers arriving from Wuhan, China will be checked for symptoms of fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. The screening at JFK starts tonight.
So far two people in China have died from the new virus called the Corona Virus. Some 45 others are infected.
The last time the CDC did routine passenger health screenings was during the 2014 Ebola outbreak.
The CDC and Hawaii Department of Transportation said that Hawaii wasn’t chosen for special screening because the threat for the state is very low.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there is no need to be alarmed and they want to reassure the public that they always screen international passengers for illnesses.
“They consider it a low level alert. But it is still something that’s being watched,” Doctor James Ireland said. Ireland is the Aircraft Rescue & Fire Fighting Medical Director .
Ireland said that the CDC continually monitors all international and domestics travelers. He added that Daniel K. Inouye International Airport is one of only 20 airports in the United states that the CDC monitors constantly.
“The airport has had a robust surveillance system. It’s been in place for over 10 years because of diseases like SARS and Avian influenza. It’s a team approach. The CDC oversees international travelers–they are the lead agency. They work with the state DOT. We have firefighters here at all the airports as first responders,” Ireland said.
Passengers who look sick or show symptoms of illness can be held in quarantine by the CDC.
“The fact that this is an international illness, outside the US, actually makes it easier because people have to come through customs and border protection and are screen to in general,” Ireland explained.
Travelers from Wuhan, China would automatically be taken aside and screened.
Spokesperson for the Department of Transportation Tim Sakahara said that unlike New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles there are no direct flights from Wuhan China to Honolulu or any airport in Hawaii.
Ireland said there is still much to learn about the virus.
“It’s not completely benign but it’s not as dangerous as I think some of the other similar viruses we’ve seen in the past are. But I wouldn’t really want to speculate,” Ireland said.
The CDC is continuing to monitor the situation and if anything changes they said they will inform the public.