U.S. health officials urge against travel to China due to new coronavirus

Travelers need to be prepared for sudden restrictions due to spread of new virus, feds warn

MIAMI – As a new coronavirus continues to spread rapidly, federal authorities are warning travelers to stay away from China.

The U.S. Department of State issued the advisory on Thursday night and asked travelers to be prepared for the possibility of sudden restrictions.

“This is due to the spread of the novel coronavirus throughout China and the [World Health Organization] determinations that the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote on Twitter.

Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport in London after the last British Airways flight from China touched down in the UK following an announcement that the airline was suspending all flights to and from mainland China with immediate effect amid the escalating coronavirus crisis, Wednesday Jan. 29, 2020. Many governments have warned against unnecessary travel to China, as efforts to contain a new and deadly coronavirus virus intensify. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)

The virus emerged in China’s city of Wuhan in December, and already China’s health commission reports there are 102,000 suspected cases under observation and 9,692 confirmed cases with at least 213 deaths.

China’s province of Hubei, where most of the deaths happened, remains in lockdown.

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the main reason for the declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries.

According to WHO, there are 98 cases in 18 other countries, but there haven’t been any deaths reported outside of China.

As of Thursday night, there were eight confirmed human-to-human infections of the virus -- also known as 2019-mCoV, in the U.S., Germany, Japan and Vietnam.

Passengers arriving from a China Southern Airlines flight from Changsha in China are screened for the new type of coronavirus, whose symptoms are similar to the cold or flu and many other illnesses, upon their arrival at the Jomo Kenyatta international airport in Nairobi, Kenya, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. Some countries began evacuating their citizens Wednesday from Wuhan, the Chinese city hardest-hit by an outbreak of the new virus that is thought to have killed over one hundred people and infected more than 6,000. (AP Photo/Patrick Ngugi) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The five people who traveled to China and were diagnosed in the U.S. are in Illinois, California, Arizona and Washington state. Doctors believe a woman who traveled to Wuhan in December infected her husband in Chicago.

Despite the reports, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, “the immediate risk to the American public is low.”

A woman wearing a face mask packs her suitcase in the departures area of Terminal 5, after it was announced British Airways has suspended all services to and from China, at London's Heathrow Airport, Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020. British Airways and Asian budget carriers Lion Air and Seoul Air are among the airlines suspending flights to China as fears of a new virus that has killed more than 130 people spread. Several other airlines including Finnair, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and Singapore-based Jetstar Asia are reducing the number of flights to the country as demand for travel drops because of the outbreak. (Steve Parsons/PA via AP)

The 200 U.S. citizens who were evacuated from Wuhan are not being allowed to leave a military base in California for 72 hours.

Travelers are already feeling the effects of public health measures. On Monday, the CDC set up a quarantine station at Miami International Airport.

Miami International Airport screening for coronavirus at quarantine station

Italy suspended all China flights, and North Korea, Mongolia and Russia banned crossings to and from China.

A coronavirus scare trapped more than 6,500 passengers inside a Carnival Cruise ship in a port in Italy. The ship won’t be able to continue its voyage until Friday night.

Costa Smeralda (WPLG)

The concerns have also affected procedures in schools. During a coronavirus scare in Palm Beach County this week, officials asked 30 students and three teachers of the Benjamin School in Palm Beach Gardens to stay home for about three days until the CDC confirmed they did not have the new Wuhan virus.

The Florida Health Department is working with the CDC and local public health authorities to investigate, confirm, contain and report any suspected cases.

About the Authors:

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.

Janine Stanwood joined Local 10 News in February 2004 as an assignment editor. She is now a general assignment reporter. Before moving to South Florida from her Washington home, Janine was the senior legislative correspondent for a United States senator on Capitol Hill.