Australia will begin screening passengers that land from Wuhan where a new deadly virus was discovered last month.
The new screening efforts will only be in place at Sydney Airport where three direct flights from Wuhan land per week on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
When China Eastern Airlines flight MU749 lands on Thursday, passengers will be met by biosecurity staff from New South Wales Health and Border Force officials.
Passengers are expected to be screened for high temperatures with thermal imaging – but the method is not 100 per cent successful because people can harbour the coronavirus with no symptoms for days.
Anyone who does have a high temperature or is feeling unwell will be interviewed by officials.
It comes as US health authorities on Tuesday announced the first case of a person on American soil being diagnosed with the virus as millions of travellers prepare to take flights for Lunar New Year on Saturday.
Plane passengers in China are being screened after an outbreak of the deadly coronavirus
The virus, an as-yet unnamed variant of the coronavirus, was first detected in Wuhan, China last month but has now breached China’s borders
The man, a US resident in his 30s who lives near Seattle, is in good condition, according to federal and state officials.
He is being ‘hospitalised out of an abundance of precaution, and for short term monitoring, not because there was severe illness,’ said Chris Spitters, a Washington state health official.
Last month doctors began seeing the new virus in people who got sick after spending time at a food market in Wuhan.
More than 275 cases of the newly identified coronavirus have been confirmed in China, most of them in Wuhan, according to the World Health Organisation.
The count includes six deaths – all in China, most of them aged 60 or older, including at least some who had a previous medical condition.
Doctors have said the virus probably spread from animals to people, but this week Chinese officials said they’ve concluded it also can spread from person to person.
There is one suspected case in Australia, with a man isolated at home in Brisbane for treatment.
Australia has raised its travel advice for China to level 2, telling people to exercise a high degree of caution.
Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control (CDC) personnel use thermal scanners to screen passengers arriving on a flight from China’s Wuhan province
As well as the airport screenings, information will be displayed across all other points of entry into Australia to warn people who develop symptoms to seek urgent medical attention.
NSW Health announced on Tuesday evening it will assist commonwealth biosecurity staff at Sydney Airport to monitor those returning from Wuhan.
No cases of the novel coronavirus have been detected in NSW, the department said in a statement.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said health officials are working with the federal government and other jurisdictions to monitor the situation in China.
‘Sydney is a popular destination for people travelling from China especially around the time of the Lunar New Year, so up-to-date health advice is paramount,’ Mr Hazzard said in a statement on Tuesday.
Health workers in the state’s public hospitals, as well as community-based GPs, have been given precautionary advice and the department has made novel coronavirus 2019 a notifiable disease under law.
CHINA QUEUES TO BUY FACE MASKS
Face masks are flying off the shelves across China as the country’s citizens prepare themselves for the potential spread of the outbreak, which has already swept the nation.
Pictures and videos circulating on the country’s social media show residents in various cities queuing to stock up on the medical products.
On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent to Twitter, web users reported to have seen huge lines of customers in and outside pharmacies in hope of buying the sought-after item.
Prices for face masks have surged, according a report from Beijing Evening News.
Some vendors on the country’s e-commerce site have increased the price of the N95 masks – which is made by US company 3M and particularly popular in China – from 99 yuan (£11) a box to nearly 1,000 yuan (£110) a box, the report said.
A topic page titled ‘the main force of buying face masks’ on Weibo has attracted around 570million clicks as the Chinese netizens discuss the apparent nationwide buying spree.
NSW Health director of health protection Dr Jeremy McAnulty said advice is being given to people who may have already returned to the state from Wuhan, as symptoms may take up two weeks to develop.
These include a fever with respiratory symptoms such as shortness of breath, a cough or a sore throat.
‘There is no need for alarm, but people should be aware of the emerging situation and if they develop symptoms on returning from affected areas overseas, they should call ahead before seeing their GP,’ Dr McAnulty said in a statement on Tuesday.
‘This virus does not appear to spread easily between people, but anyone with symptoms should practise simple hygiene by covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow and washing their hands thoroughly.’
A Malaysia Health official checks passengers going through a thermal scanner upon their arrival at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport
What do we know about the new kind of coronavirus?
WHAT IS THE DISEASE?
Scientists have identified it as a new kind of coronavirus. There are many known types of coronaviruses. Some cause the common cold. Others found in bats, camels and other animals have evolved into more severe illnesses such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) or MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome).
WHY IS IT CALLED A CORONAVIRUS?
Corona comes from Latin and refers to crowns or halos. Under a microscope, these viruses resemble crowns or halos.
WHEN WAS THE NEW VIRUS FOUND?
The outbreak started late last month in the city of Wuhan in central China, apparently at a food market.
HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE IT AND HOW WIDESPREAD IS IT?
About 300 cases have been identified. There are about 260 cases in Wuhan, according to Chinese officials. Cases in other Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, total around 30. They were reported with the onset of an annual travel rush for the Lunar New Year holiday. Many Chinese travel abroad for the holiday and a few cases have been confirmed outside the mainland – in South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Taiwan. That travel rush is expected to spread the disease more widely.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Common symptoms include a runny nose, headache, cough and fever. Shortness of breath, chills and body aches are associated with more dangerous kinds of coronavirus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
HOW ARE CORONAVIRUSES SPREAD?
Many coronaviruses can spread through coughing or sneezing, or by touching an infected person. Initially, authorities in China said there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission in the present outbreak. But an expert panel has concluded there have been at least a few cases of people catching it from others, raising the possibility it could spread more widely.
COULD IT BE AS BAD AS SARS?
So far, the virus appears less dangerous and infectious than SARS, which also started in China and killed about 800 people. As of Tuesday, six deaths had been reported, all in Wuhan. Viruses can mutate into more dangerous and contagious forms, and it’s too early to say what will happen with this one.