CDC will expand surveillance of infectious diseases at some major airports


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding surveillance of infectious diseases at some major airports. Federal health officials said they’re hoping to prevent another outbreak of contagious illness like what happened last winter.

Thanksgiving is fast approaching and the beginning of the holiday season and cooler temperatures means more togetherness and potentially contagious infections spreading.

“Being indoors in close proximity to each other and that is usually what kicks off respiratory virus season,” epidemiologist Anne Rimoin said.

In an effort to track infections often carried through airports, the CDC is expanding its disease surveillance program for international travelers at Boston, Dulles, JFK, and San Francisco.

CBS News Philadelphia

“I think it’s a pretty solid program,” Alejandero Morales said. “Just making sure what comes into the United States.”

The CDC will now test for more than 30 pathogens including flu and RSV.

“I think gathering scientific data on biological problems in the world is an excellent idea,” Guy Preuss said.

The infection testing will be voluntary for passengers.

“The key to it all is that the traveler really provides us with early critical information that can help us find things before they spread in our communities and helps public health officials determine what prevention and intervention measures will be needed,” Dr. Cindy Friedman, Chief of the Travelers’ Health Branch of the CDC, said.

The program, which is not in Philly now, began in 2021 to track COVID variants collecting nasal swabs and analyzing wastewater from certain flights.

“We hope to do the same and have the same success with early detection and filling in the gaps with other respiratory viruses,” Friedman said.

Federal health officials said they’re especially concerned about winter outbreaks because not many people have gotten the recommended vaccinations.

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