DALLAS - Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport has joined a growing list of airports across the country that will screen international travelers for the coronavirus.
The airport said the Centers for Disease Control identified Dallas as a location to monitor for the viral illness and provide educational materials to any travelers arriving in the United States from China.
Officials said the airport is prepared to assist the CDC’s team of public health professionals on the screenings and the Tarrant County Public Health Department will respond if necessary. But it’s not known when CDC team will arrive and when screenings will begin.
“The safety of our employees is our top priority and we continue to work closely with local, state and federal public health officials,” DFW Airport said in a statement.
The CDC already has been checking arrivals at five U.S. airports that once had direct flights from the hardest-hit section of China. While China has instituted broad travel bans, people who had been in other parts of China still may be arriving via other countries.
The CDC is now beefing up screening at 15 more "quarantine stations" around the country, airports and other places where health workers regularly check arriving travelers for signs of illness. People travelling from or through China can expect to have their temperature taken, they’ll be observed for any possible coronavirus symptoms and they’ll be asked about their travel history.
People flying in to DFW from China on Tuesday night were still wearing masks as they came through international arrivals.
Sunny Xi had just gotten off a 12-hour flight from Shanghai.
“Most everyone was wearing masks on the flight, yeah. Wore it throughout the flight. Took it off when I got here,” Xi said.
Corinna Li arrived from Hong Kong expecting to be screened. She wasn’t, nor was anyone else.
“Here, when I landed, I was surprised we were not even asked or anything,” Li said.
“If they don’t have any symptoms they’ll be given a card that tells them to monitor these symptoms for the next 14 days and instructions on if they do develop those symptoms to contact the physician or hospital beforehand to warn them they need to be evaluated so the healthcare provider can be ready for them for infection control,” said Dr. Phil Huang, Dallas Co. Health & Human Services Director.
Nationally, the CDC said there are five confirmed cases of coronavirus which has flu-like symptoms and can cause pneumonia. Another 110 people are being monitored in 26 states but many have already been cleared.
So far two possible cases in Texas on the Texas A&M and Baylor University campuses have come back negative. There is a third possible case but the state health department has not released details.
The CDC said the risk to public health remains low in this country. However, the death toll now stands at 106 in China. More than 4,500 cases coronavirus are confirmed across that country.
China has extended its Lunar New Year celebrations by three days to help reduce the risk of infection by keeping people at home.
Many U.S. airlines are also giving travelers time to change their plans to go to China. American, United and Delta all waived change fees for flights to Beijing or Shanghai through the end of February. The CDC raised its travel precautions for China Monday, advising travelers to avoid nonessential travel to the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.