Passengers Screened at Boston Airport for China Virus

January 23, 2020 Updated: January 27, 2020

A group of nine passengers who traveled from China to Boston were screened at Logan International Airport on Jan. 22 for a new virus that first appeared in Wuhan, according to officials.

The passengers arrived on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong and were medically evaluated out of precaution, the Massachusetts Port Authority said, reported WCVB.

Massachusetts State Police said they were examined by Boston Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Massport Fire Rescue personnel, and a nurse in direct contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The remaining passengers were able to deplane.

Both the Boston EMS and Massachusetts State Police found the nine passengers showed no signs of sickness, however, and they were allowed to exit the aircraft and continue on to their final destinations.

It comes as fears grow that the respiratory disease could become a global epidemic and as the United States this week became the fifth country outside of China—and the first outside Asia—to confirm a case of infection.

A patient, who is in his 30s, is understood to have traveled around Jan. 15 to Seattle from Wuhan, where the outbreak originated. He remains in isolation at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million people in Hubei Province considered the epicenter of the outbreak, has been put on lockdown.

Wuhan city authorities announced on Wednesday they would begin quarantining the city in order to contain the disease’s spread, shutting down the airport and all public transit there.

Chinese authorities said that starting at 10 a.m. on Jan. 23, public transportation, including the subway and ferries, would be suspended.

“Unless there is a special reason, citizens should not leave Wuhan city,” the Wuhan municipal government said in a statement, a state-run media outlet reported.

“Airports and train stations that can be used to leave the city will be temporarily closed. The closures will continue until further announcement.”

China on Jan. 20 admitted that the disease could be transmitted human to human, and it is estimated that the virus has already reached 20 mainland cities other than Wuhan, according to a study by the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

Chinese authorities believe the outbreak is linked to a fresh food market in Wuhan which sold seafood and wild animals. The market, which was linked to all SARS cases seen in Wuhan in 2003, has been closed since Jan. 1.

Li Bin, vice minister of China’s National Health Commission, told reporters Wednesday the new strain of coronavirus is mainly spread through respiratory transmission, warning that China must now urgently work to prevent and control the spread of the disease.

“The virus may mutate, and there is a risk of further spread of the virus,” he said, according to The Guardian.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the virus and whether to declare a public health emergency of international concern, but it postponed making the call saying physicians need more information.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus asked his committee to reconvene on Thursday.

“Today, there was an excellent discussion during the committee meeting, but it was also clear that to proceed we need more information,” Tedros told reporters, reported CNBC. “The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has upgraded its precaution levels for traveling to China from level one to level two on a three-tier scale, warning travelers to exercise “enhanced precautions.”

The WHO has urged people to avoid “unprotected” contact with live animals and avoid close contact with those with cold or flu-like symptoms, as well to as cook meat and eggs thoroughly.

Reuters contributed to this report.