Passengers arriving in North Texas from China will soon be screened for signs of coronavirus as public health officials try to prevent the illness from spreading.
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is one of 20 airports identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for expanded health screenings, the airport said in a statement Tuesday.
“DFW Airport is one of 20 U.S. airports identified by the Centers for Disease Control to monitor for illness and provide educational materials for any travelers arriving in the United States from China,” the statement said. “A team of public health professionals from the CDC will execute the monitoring program as soon as their team is in place.”
“DFW Airport Public Safety is trained and prepared to support the CDC and the Tarrant County Public Health Department if monitoring efforts require a coordinated response,” the statement read. “The safety of our employees and customers is our top priority and we continue to work closely with local, state and federal public health officials.”
“The health and safety of our customers and team members is our top priority. We are in close contact with the US Customs & Border Protection, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials and will coordinate with them on any required health and safety related measures,” Fort Worth-based American Airlines said in a statement.
American Airlines is the only airline that has flights arriving from China to DFW. Though the number can fluctuate, the airline said it typically averages three-a-day with routes from Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.
Tom Houdek with the airline’s flight attendant’s union, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, said they’ve received hourly updates on the situation. While he said they’re prepared on board with masks and gloves, they welcomed the added safeguard on the ground.
“It might be overkill and some people might think it’s hyping the hysteria. But again, I would rather err on the side of caution than not,” Houdek said.
Chris Zetena traveled through Hong Kong on his way back to Dallas from a business trip in Thailand.
He said he was surprised that screening wasn’t already in place at DFW as it was in Hong Kong.
“They just take a little temperature gauge and run it on your forehead, so they really should be doing that, right? It’s quick and easy,” Zetena said
More than 100 people have died and 2,744 people have fallen ill since the coronavirus was first found in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.
The United States and several other nations prepared Tuesday to airlift citizens out of Wuhan, one of 17 Chinese cities where government officials have cut off travel.
U.S. health officials expanded their recommendation for people to avoid non-essential travel to any part of China, rather than just Wuhan and other areas most affected by the outbreak.
SOURCE: NBC DFW 5 & Associated Press