Passengers arriving at international airports are to undergo thermal screening to identify potential carriers of the previously unknown Coronavirus (Nova 2019-nCoV) which has affected at least fifty people in Wuhan China.

Airports including Singapore, and three US airports (LAX, SFO, and JFK) have announced they will be screening arriving passengers for the lethal strain of respiratory Coronavirus.

"On arrival to the United States, travellers from Wuhan may undergo health screening, including having their temperature taken and filling out a symptom questionnaire," the Center for Disease Control said on its website. Travellers displaying symptoms such as fever, coughing and respiratory problems will be given additional health assessment.

The CDC set up similar precautions in 2104 after it responded to the spread of the Ebola virus.

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In The Wuhan Tianhe international airport said that a temperature checkpoint will be installed at the entrance of its terminals.

High fever is a key symptom of carriers of the flu like virus, which can be detected by thermal screening stations which several airports have installed, including Changi in Singapore.

The Wuhan outbreak comes ahead of China's busies travel season. Photo / AP, Mark Schiefelbein
The Wuhan outbreak comes ahead of China's busies travel season. Photo / AP, Mark Schiefelbein

The outbreak comes at one of the peak times for domestic and international travel in China.

Ahead of Chinese New Year the Spring Festival sees one of the largest migrations of people on the planet as people travel to visit friends and relatives for the New Year festival.

On Thursday the World Health Organization confirmed the first cases of the virus outside of China, in Japan and Thailand. Both passengers had recently travelled to Wuhan.

In other airports screening points have also been set up to detect potential carriers.

New Zealand airports have not yet been issued with any specific advisories from either the Civil Aviation Authority or the Ministry of Health beyond the general advice for travellers to monitor their own symptoms.

"At this stage there appears to be limited human-to-human transmission," advised
Dr Caroline McElnay, New Zealand Director of Public Health.

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In a statement the Ministry of Health said it "is aware of a cluster of pneumonia cases caused by a novel coronavirus being reported in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China, including individual cases exported from Wuhan to other countries (Thailand, Japan and South Korea) and elsewhere in China."

Dr McElnay ephasised that there are no direct flights between New Zealand and Wuhan and that there "no cases have been reported in New Zealand."

The minsitry said it would continue to monitor developments and has been in "frequent communication with the health and border sector to give advice."

A spokesperson for Auckland Airport said they had received "no advisories relating to the coronavirus outbreak in China," although they would "act upon any advisory received."

Last Friday two passengers from Wuhan were stopped at a thermal scanning point at Singapore's Changi airport. Of five passengers stopped for further health screening none have tested positive for the virus.

The WHO has advised that screening "offers little benefit, while requiring considerable resources". Instead it advises passengers who are feeling unwell to "seek medical attention and share travel history with their health care provider".