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Government Working to Stop Spread of New Virus into US

CDC and DHS screening airline passengers from China

January 21, 2020

Accessible air travel has not only made it quicker for people to travel, but also for germs. Candida auris, one of the five superbugs on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Preventions’ (CDC’s) urgent threat list was first discovered in 2009 in Japan. It has since spread worldwide and in the United States it is most prevalent in New York state.

Infection control specialists are now tracking a new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in Wuhan, China. The coronavirus has caused more than 40 confirmed human infections in China, including two deaths, and has spread to Thailand and Japan. 

Starting last Friday, the CDC and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been implementing enhanced health screenings to detect ill travelers traveling to the United States on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan. Travelers from Wuhan to the United States will undergo entry screening for symptoms associated with 2019-nCoV at three U.S. airports that receive most of the travelers from the Chinese city: San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, and Los Angeles International Airport. The CDC is deploying about 100 additional staff to the three airports to supplement existing staff at quarantine stations located at those airports. As new information emerges, the CDC will reassess entry screening measures and could scale activities up or down accordingly.

China health officials report that most of the patients infected with 2019-nCoV have had exposure to a large market where live animals were present, suggesting this is a new virus that has jumped the species barrier to infect people.

Jeff Jones, certified bio-forensic restoration specialist and director of forensic operations for the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a division of ISSA, states that China has now confirmed human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus and now has confirmed cases in Beijing and Shanghai. Over 400 million people are expected to travel during the Chinese Lunar Holiday, heightening fears of a potential pandemic.

Jones states that if the new strain of virus in China is a coronavirus, then it is an enveloped virus and more easily deactivated than a non-enveloped pathogen like a norovirus. Biorisk management professionals, like certified forensic operators, should make sure they are following GBAC protocol for a known infectious agent and using a disinfectant proven to deactivate both enveloped and non-enveloped viruses if called upon to conduct microbial warfare against this new infectious agent.

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