Deadly China-borne coronavirus scares some Floridians; Miami International screening travelers

By: - January 29, 2020 4:21 pm

A Japan Airlines worker wears a face mask while working inside a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

A deadly and mysterious virus plaguing China has made its way to the United States, with five confirmed cases in the country but none in Florida so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, Florida has begun taking precautions, with Miami International Airport screening international travelers.

And at a Palm Beach County private school – The Benjamin School — a group of high school students were advised not to go to school after attending a Yale Model United Nations conference where a student who had traveled from China was in attendance. That student is being tested for the coronavirus, according to WPTV West Palm Beach.

The coronavirus, also described as Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), was first reported in China last month, according to the CDC.

The CDC says the virus symptoms include cough, fever, headache, sore throat and runny nose.

The virus can spread in various ways: in the air by coughing and sneezing; close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands; touching an object or surface with the virus on it, then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes before washing your hands; rarely, fecal contamination.

The New York Times reported that Chinese officials confirmed over 6,000 cases of the virus, causing over 100 deaths.

The CDC has so far confirmed cases in nearly a dozen countries: Australia, China (including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), France, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam.

In the United States, the five confirmed cases are in Arizona, California, Illinois, Washington.

The Florida Department of Health issued a written statement on the outbreak:

“The Florida Department of Health (Department) is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to closely monitor the current outbreak of 2019 novel coronavirus and is actively working to ensure that the most up-to-date CDC guidance is quickly and accurately disseminated to local partners.

Though no cases have been reported in Florida to date, the Department is coordinating closely with our local partners to investigate, confirm, contain and report any suspected cases, should they occur.”

In Florida, The Benjamin School, a private school with two campus in Palm Beach County, are waiting for test results to make sure teachers and students didn’t contract the virus while at the Yale event, according to the Palm Beach Post.

As a precaution, health officials want to make sure they didn’t catch it from a student who traveled from China and attended the four-day conference at Yale University, an Ivy League school in Connecticut.

The student, whose identity has not been disclosed, tested positive for the flu and now is being tested for the coronavirus. The results haven’t been released yet.

Other precautionary measures taken by health officials include screening international travelers at 20 airports for the virus – Miami International is the only one on the list so far in Florida. At the quarantine station in Miami, personnel are assessing the health of its passengers and have “isolation rooms” for sick individuals, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

According to a USA Today report, the list of the 20 airports include: Los Angeles International; San Francisco International; Chicago O’Hare; New York JFK; Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International; Houston George Bush Intercontinental; Dallas-Fort Worth International; San Diego International; Seattle-Tacoma International; Honolulu International; Anchorage Ted Stevens International; Minneapolis-St. Paul International; Detroit Metropolitan; Miami International; Washington Dulles International; Philadelphia International; Newark Liberty International; Boston Logan International; El Paso International; Puerto Rico’s San Juan Airport.

The CDC has so far confirmed cases in nearly a dozen countries: Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China (including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan), France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, The Republic of Korea, Thailand, the United States and Vietnam the United Arab Emirates.

In Orlando, a major tourist destination, the Orlando airport has not been designated as a quarantine station.

Rod Johnson, assistant director of public affairs at the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, said in a written statement:

“All 20 of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) designated Quarantine Stations have initiated public outreach to educate the general public about the Coronavirus. Orlando International Airport (MCO) is not one of those designated stations.

At this time, the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority has not received guidance from the CDC to conduct operations differently in regards to the Coronavirus. CDC leaders continue to screen passengers at select airports and recommend that non-essential travel to Wuhan, in the Hubei province of China, be suspended by U.S. travelers. Orlando International Airport does not have air service to China or that region of the world. MCO emergency management officials continue to confer with local, state and federal agencies and monitor this public health situation. We are prepared to make operational changes when directed to do so by the CDC.”

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Issac Morgan
Issac Morgan

Issac Morgan is a 2009 graduate of Florida A&M University's School of Journalism, and a proud native of Tallahassee. He has covered city council and community events at the Gadsden County Times, worked as a sports news assistant at the Tallahassee Democrat, a communications specialist for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and as a proofreader at the Florida Law Weekly.