(CMR) Three major airports in the United States will begin screening for a new coronavirus: Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK) and San Francisco (SFO) after an outbreak in China that has impacted more than 40 persons.
The new strain of coronavirus — named 2019-nCoV — has been discovered in China in late December and is quickly spreading with health officials in Thailand and Japan now announcing that the strange new virus, which has killed two people and sickened dozens of others in China, has appeared inside their borders this week.
Health officials say it's the culprit in a pneumonia outbreak in the central city of Wuhan, where more than 40 people have been diagnosed with mysterious viral lung infections since early December. Two cases have been identified in Thailand, and one in Japan, from travelers who had recently come from Wuhan. Two deaths have been reported in Wuhan. It is also being called the “Wuhan Virus”.
Chinese researchers say they sequenced the new coronavirus's genome from one patient's samples and matched it to others in the outbreak.
Concern about the potential for spread has prompted a number of international airports to begin screening passengers from Wuhan. On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that three U.S. airports will screen for symptoms: JFK in New York, SFO in San Francisco and LAX in Los Angeles.
Some, but not all, of the cases appear to be linked to a large seafood market in the city, which also sells live animals for meat. Experts think the infection probably came from people touching or eating animals that carry the virus. These individuals then developed viral symptoms including fever, breathing issues and lesions on their lungs.
The coronavirus family includes six other strains known to infect humans. All share a signature look under a strong microscope: a circle with spikes coming off the surface, ending with small blobs — hence the “corona.”
“Kind of looks like the peaks of a crown,” says Carolyn Machamer, a virologist and cell biologist at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Four of those strains cause common colds, and two — SARS and MERS — have caused major pandemics.