More than 20 travelers undergo advanced screening for coronavirus at Hartsfield-Jackson

Officials say five people have tested positive for the illness in the U.S. The virus has claimed the lives of at least 80 people in China.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with details of health authorities screening U.S. citizens who arrived in California from China, in addition to the latest comments from the CDC about testing nationally.

Twenty-two people have undergone advanced screening for the coronavirus in a quarantine room at Hartsfield-Jackson International, but none were found to be infected, according to airport manager John Selden.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson is among the U.S. airports that have a quarantine room. It’s at the international terminal on Concourse F near the Customs area for international travelers.

Selden told an Atlanta City Council committee on Wednesday that U.S. Customs and Border Protection does primary screening of travelers.

The virus originated in Wuhan, China and has spread to other cities. If travelers have been in the region affected by the virus, they are referred for secondary screening, according to Selden.

That secondary screening is done in a separate area where travelers can have their temperature taken and be evaluated, he said. Grady Health is assisting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the screenings.

He said a total of 22 people have then been referred for tertiary screening in the quarantine room by the CDC. All have been cleared, he said.

Among them are three people who exhibited some symptoms, including a baby with stomach problems. All were screened and released.

“We have a triple process,” Selden said. “There are no reported cases [of coronavirus] in Atlanta.”

If there are any travelers who have traveled to Wuhan and have symptoms, they can be transported to Emory University Hospital Midtown, he said. There have been none that have reached that stage at this point, according to Selden.

Hartsfield-Jackson has one nonstop route from China -- from Shanghai -- and no flights from Wuhan.  Atlanta also has nonstop flights from Seoul and Tokyo.

The CDC said U.S. health authorities are evaluating 195 U.S. citizens who arrived Wednesday at March Air Reserve Base near Los Angeles on a flight from Wuhan.

The federal health agency said authorities would transport any passengers from that flight showing symptoms to a hospital for further evaluation. Those not exhibiting symptoms will remain at the base in California for 72 hours for more thorough screening.

“We have taken every precaution to ensure their safety while also continuing to protect the health of our nation and the people around them,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Wednesday evening.

So far, the CDC has investigated 165 people suspected of coronavirus in the U.S. Five of those cases have been confirmed positive, and 68 negative. The rest are still being processed.

Messonnier said she expects to see additional cases of coronavirus in the U.S. but reiterated that the risk of exposure to the general public is low.

“Right now there is no sign in the United States that we have broader community transmission,” she said, adding that the two groups being watched closely are travelers returning from China’s Hubei province and people who have had close contact with them.

Staff writer Tamar Hallerman contributed to this article. 

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