Air passengers forced to change routes to make sure they get screened for deadly virus

  • U.S. officials unveiled an ambitious plan to make sure anybody flying from Wuhan, China, to the US goes through screening for a virus sweeping the region.
  • The plans include a vast "funnel" system to reroute individual fliers — and potentially whole planes — to one of 5 airports screening for the so-called Wuhan virus.
  • The virus has killed at least 9 people and infected 440. One case has been confirmed in the US.

The U.S. is making plans to force passengers from Wuhan, China, to change flights — and even reroute flights entirely if necessary — to ensure they get screened for the coronavirus spreading throughout the Chinese city.

The novel coronavirus, known as 2019-nCoV, has left at least nine people dead and 440 infected, mostly in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

However, the disease has already spread abroad, with cases in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, and, as of Tuesday, the U.S.

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China coronavirus outbreak spreads across regions
A traveler wears a face mask as he sits in a waiting room at the Beijing West Railway Station in Beijing, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A fourth person has died in an outbreak of a new coronavirus in China, authorities said Tuesday, as more places stepped up medical screening of travelers from the country as it enters its busiest travel period. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)
A girl wearing a face mask sits among suitcases at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Travelers wearing face masks gather at Hong Kong International Airport in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Face masks sold out and temperature checks at airports and train stations became the new norm as China strove Tuesday to control the outbreak of a new coronavirus that has reached four other countries and territories and threatens to spread further during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Staff in biohazard suits hold a metal stretcher by the in-patient department of Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a novel coronavirus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Heightened precautions were being taken in China and elsewhere Tuesday as governments strove to control the outbreak of the coronavirus, which threatens to grow during the Lunar New Year travel rush. (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
Peatones con máscaras de protección en una zona comercial de Tokio, el jueves 16 de enero de 2020. (AP Foto/Eugene Hoshiko)
Health workers wear protective gear Wednesday, Aug. 27, 2003, in Ward E3 of the Alice Ho Miu Ling Nethersole Hospital in Hong Kong's New Territories, where 24 patients were quarantined after seven of its health workers developed flu-like symptoms, although none have tested positive for SARS. According to a hospital spokesperson five nurses and two health care assistants working in the hospital's Ward E3 developed symptoms such as coughs, sore throats and fevers on Friday. Hong Kong's health chief, Dr.Yeoh Eng-kiong, said that preliminary test results showed patients' samples did not contain coronavirus that causes SARS and researchers are trying to identify the cause of the illness. (AP Photo/Anat Givon)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Workers monitor screens for fever signs on passengers detected by infrared detectors at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk outside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
WUHAN, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Passengers wearing protective masks walk inside Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. A new type of coronavirus has infected hundreds of people in the city.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 21: Chinese travellers wear protective masks as they arrive to board trains at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to nearly 300 in mainland China Tuesday as health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to six on Tuesday and cases have been reported in other parts of Asia including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
YICHANG, CHINA - JANUARY 21 2020: Travelers wearing protective masks walk outside a railway station in Yichang in central China's Hubei province Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. China has stepped up the measures to control the spread of the new coronavirus that has infected hundreds of people in China.- PHOTOGRAPH BY Feature China / Barcroft Media (Photo credit should read Feature China / Barcroft Media via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JANUARY 21: A Chinese girl wears a protective mask as her mother pushes her on a suitcase to board a train at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring Festival on January 21, 2020 in Beijing, China. The number of cases of a deadly new coronavirus rose to nearly 300 in mainland China Tuesday as health officials stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the pneumonia-like disease which medicals experts confirmed can be passed from human to human. The number of those who have died from the virus in China climbed to six on Tuesday and cases have been reported in other parts of Asia including in Thailand, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
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In a media briefing following the announcement of the U.S. case, Dr. Martin Cetron, the director for the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control, outlined a comprehensive "funneling approach" to make sure every traveler from Wuhan makes it to one of five U.S. airports that can screen them.

In light of the rapid spread of the virus, Cetron said the CDC had instructed instructing the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Department to redirect travelers and keep the US as secure as possible.

The CDC has set up screening procedures for passengers at the three aforementioned airports and plans to set up at the O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, and the Hartsfield-Jackson airport in Atlanta, Georgia, later this week.

"With increasing cases, we decided to move into this full-on, 100% coverage strategy, which means adding additional airports and ... begin our funneling approach and redirect all the traffic to airports that have screening so that the benefit of the alert could be more completely covered," Cetron said.

Screening exists already at Los Angeles International Airport, New York's JFK airport, and San Francisco International Airport. It is being added at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson and Chicago's O'Hare airports.

Ordinarily there plenty of ways to get from Wuhan to the US without using those five airports. But, Cetron said, anybody who tries that will find themselves rerouted by US officials.

Cetron described funneling as "a very complex process that involves reissuing tickets and rerouting passengers from all over the globe through connecting indirect flights."

Another possible method, reported by The Washington Post, would be to reroute entire flights to pass via one of the five screening airports.

Per the post:

"For example, if a passenger was originally to fly from Wuhan to Shanghai and then Boston, that flight would most likely be rerouted to JFK for screening, and then proceed to Boston, CDC officials said."

The coronavirus, otherwise dubbed the Wuhan virus, is a respiratory disease in the same viral strain as Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that also originated in China in the early 2000s.

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