China Coronavirus Update

Now that the coronavirus from China has been discovered in the United States, airlines, airports, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. are on high alert. The virus, with the city of Wuhan, China at the epicenter, has infected 571 and killed at least 17, according to Chinese news sources. All air and train travel from the city has been shut down, and Wuhan citizens have been advised not to leave the city.

Efforts are building daily to prevent a global pandemic. The virus has spread to other cities, including Beijing, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Macau, and Taiwan, and a second case was found in the U.S., in Chicago.

As a result of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends avoiding all non-essential travel to Wuhan. It also says to remain alert if traveling to other parts of China. Symptoms of coronavirus include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. According to the CDC, the virus was originally thought to be spreading from animal to person, but there are indications that limited person-to-person spread may be occurring; it is unclear how easily the virus spreads between people. Preliminary information suggests older adults and individuals with underlying health conditions may be at increased risk.

Public health entry screenings are now in place at San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, and Los Angeles International. The CDC also plans to expand health screenings to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Meeting professionals are monitoring the situation closely, and some are adding information about it to their emergency plans. Take the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that is being held in Seattle, February 13-16. It posted the following message on its website:

Statement on Coronavirus Outbreak

AAAS and our partners in Seattle are monitoring developments related to the respiratory illness commonly referred to as the Wuhan coronavirus and its potential impact on travel to, and within, the United States. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is monitoring the situation along with local and state authorities in Washington state, where the first U.S. case of the virus was confirmed on January 21. 

The U.S. Travel Association encourages travelers to monitor and follow guidance offered by the CDC, which currently advises travelers to “practice usual precautions.” 

AAAS is committed to providing a productive meeting that fosters open dialogue and exchange of scientific ideas. We are working with our partners in Seattle to take every precaution and ensure a safe environment for our community to convene. Updated information will be posted to meetings.aaas.org as it becomes available.

During an event held this week at the headquarters of Travel Leaders Group that focused on travel trends, Lisa Wheeler, senior vice president of operations for Altour, said they have had calls from clients about the coronavirus although no cancellations. Cases like this is one of the reasons Altour has brought John Rose, a chief risk officer on board.

Peter Vlitas, senior vice president of airline relations for Travel Leaders Group, added that airlines are issuing waivers for those who do not want to travel to Wuhan.

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