NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Airline passengers arriving at JFK Airport from Central China are being screened for a new deadly virus.
The pneumonia-like illness has been linked to two deaths and sickened dozens of people in China and at least two other countries.
About 100 experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are descending on JFK, Los Angeles and San Francisco airports this weekend. They are taking the temperatures of passengers arriving from Wuhan, China, hoping to prevent coronavirus, a new mysterious respiratory virus from spreading to the United States.
The first flight from the outbreak region landed at JFK Airport around 10 p.m. Friday. Passengers told CBS2’s Christina Fan the process was relatively easy. They were asked to stand in a line, had a thermometer pointed at their foreheads and were asked to fill out a questionnaire.
“This is a new disease and information is really rapidly evolving and so we’re continuing to learn about it day by day,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier with the CDC.
So far, there have been 45 confirmed cases leading to two deaths. It has spread to Thailand and Japan, sparking a World Health Organization alert.
Passengers traveling from San Francisco to China had face masks packed and are glad precautions will be in place for their return.
“It’s necessary to go through the screening, to check the temperature to make sure we’re OK, we don’t have the fever,” said Tony Nguyen, a U.S. citizen traveling to China.
Most of the infected are believed to have been exposed at a large Wuhan seafood and animal market.
Authorities say the virus is transmitted from animals to people and believe it is rare for the virus to spread between humans, but it comes from the same family as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, that killed 700 people.
“The earlier we can detect the virus, the better we can understand it, and the better we can protect the American public,” Messonnier said.
So far, the risk to the American public is deemed to be low, but the CDC says it wants to be prepared, with 5,000 arriving passengers expected to be screened in the coming weeks.
Passengers who passed the screening Friday night said they received a yellow marker on their passports. Those who are suspected of being infected will be taken to local hospitals where they will undergo further evaluation.
The CDC says the last time they took precautions like this was during the Ebola epidemic in 2014.