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.

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.