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CDC expands coronavirus screenings. What should travelers expect?

The novel coronavirus outbreak in China is spreading quickly, with a 60 percent increase in known cases (bringing the total to more than 4,500). There are currently five cases of coronavirus in the United States, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expanding screenings for the virus to 15 additional ports of entry, bringing the total to 20. Up until now, screenings were happening at five U.S. airports: JFK (New York City), San Francisco International, Los Angeles International, Hartsfield Jackson International (Atlanta), and O’Hare (Chicago).

For travelers arriving in the U.S. from China, the screenings will involve a questionnaire about their trip, any symptoms they may be experiencing, and contact information. CDC staff members will also screen for observable symptoms, taking the temperatures of travelers using handheld, non-contact thermometers. In past viral screenings (such as the 2014 Ebola outbreak), officials used handheld infrared thermometers, which can be held about 6 inches from the subject and are generally used to scan the temple or forehead.

We’ve reached out to the CDC for more specific information about what the screening procedures will look like for travelers, as well as the technology involved, and will update this story when we receive a response.

In a press conference on January 28, Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services,responded to questions about travel restrictions by saying that “it is important not to take anything off the table,” adding that such a move would depend on specific circumstances.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are working on three crucial approaches to dealing with the virus: Diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.

“There is no proven therapy for coronavirus infection,” Fauci said, but added that “We have already started … on the development of a vaccine.”

The vaccine in question won’t roll out overnight. Fauci claimed that it will take three months to get to trial, and then another three months to collect necessary data before moving on to the next phase.

While many have drawn comparisons between the coronavirus outbreaks and the SARS coronavirus outbreak in China in 2002, CDC Director Robert Redfield cautioned against using lessons learned from that outbreak in dealing with this one.

“Although we know a lot about SARS … we don’t really know a lot about this one … We don’t know how this virus jumped to man.”

Azar emphasized that “at this point, Americans shouldn’t worry for their safety.” In response to reports that Americans are buying facial masks, the officials said such action is “unnecessary” and that tThe risk to any American individual is low.”

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