Screenings for mystery virus at O'Hare: What you need to know
Passengers arriving at O'Hare International Airport from a region in eastern China will start being screened this week for a new virus that causes pneumonia and has sickened hundreds in Asia.
Information is still emerging about the 2019 novel coronavirus, but authorities confirmed Tuesday that a Washington state resident who returned Jan. 15 from Wuhan, China, is the first American known to have contracted the respiratory illness.
Screening at O'Hare by federal health workers "will impact a very limited group of travelers, and the broader traveling public and airport employees are not at risk," Chicago Department of Aviation Commissioner Jamie Rhee said.
"We're taking these proactive measures based on recommendations from the CDC to ensure we are monitoring traveler health appropriately," Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady said.
Travelers at O'Hare do not need to take special precautions and will not be affected unless their flights are departing to or arriving from the Wuhan region of China, officials said. Screening typically involves passengers filling out questionnaires and having their temperatures checked. Travelers with fever, cough or trouble breathing might undergo additional assessments.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began screening passengers from Wuhan Friday at San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York's John F. Kennedy international airports. O'Hare and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are being added to the list.
Coronaviruses are described as a "family" of viruses causing respiratory problems that include the common cold.
One coronavirus, however, was severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS, a respiratory infection that resulted in a global outbreak in 2003, killing 774 people, according to the World Health Organization.
There's a lot scientists don't know about the new coronavirus yet.
"While originally thought to be spreading from animal to person, there are growing indications that limited person-to-person spread is happening. It's unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people," CDC officials said.
Chinese authorities estimate the virus, first detected in December, has infected about 440 people in China and caused nine deaths. Other cases have been reported in Thailand, Japan and South Korea.
Those most susceptible are the elderly or people with health problems and compromised immune systems, preliminary information indicates.
Authorities noted that despite the fatalities, other patients have been treated and released.
It's not the first time O'Hare has hosted CDC screenings for viruses; this also occurred in 2014 during the Ebola epidemic in Africa.
"Over the years, we've developed deep relationships and gained useful experiences when it comes to addressing situations like the 2019 Novel Coronavirus, and airport contingency preparations began a week ago -- before the CDC initiated this step," Rhee stated.
About the virus and screeningHere's what to know about screening for a new virus for passengers arriving at O'Hare International Airport from the Wuhan region in eastern China.
• The virus is a coronavirus, which can cause respiratory infections such as the common cold or more serious diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome or SARS.
• Coronavirus is dubbed "2019 novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV."
• Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing.
• If you are screened, federal health workers might take your temperature and require you to fill out a questionnaire. Travelers who have a fever, cough or trouble breathing might undergo additional assessments.
• The general public is not at risk unless they have traveled to the Wuhan area of China.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention