The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is filing for emergency authorisation to distribute its test for the deadly coronavirus and believe the diagnostic may be available to send out by week’s end, officials said Monday.
Currently, the health agency’s laboratory in Atlanta, Georgia, is the only place in the nation equipped with the blood test that diagnoses the virus – and 82 people are awaiting results.
Emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would allow the federal agency to send the tests to states, expediting the diagnostic process.
The CDC also revealed that four more planes are being sent to Wuhan, China – the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak – to rescue Americans who are stuck in the region.
An estimated 1,000 Americans were left behind after a charter flight last week transported 195 US citizens stateside.
The newly-announced additional flights are expected to arrive this week, after which the passengers will undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Health officials stress that the coronavirus risk to Americans is low, but travelers continue to trickle in from Wuhan and mainland China, and CDC authorities say it’s all but certain that some will carry the virus with them.
Starting on Sunday night, new rules from the Trump administration went into effect barring foreign nationals who have been in China in the last two weeks from entering the US.
However, this excludes immediate family members of US citizens or permanent residents as well as citizens from Hong Kong or Macao.
Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that anyone who has traveled within China in the last 14 days will be directed through 11 US airports for screening.
Previously announced were John F Kennedy International Airport in New York City; O’Hare International Airport in Chicago; Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport in California; Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Washington; Daniel K Inouye International Airport in Hawaii; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta.
Four new airports were added to the list: Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC; Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey; Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in Texas; and Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Michigan.
Dr Messonnier said that if any passengers are symptomatic, they will be transferred to a location that has yet to be determined and isolated for 14 days.
Since the outbreak began in December 2019, 99 percent of cases have been in China and mostly in Wuhan.
As of Monday morning, more than 17,200 people worldwide have been infected with coronavirus and 362 people have died.
There are 11 confirmed cases in the US including six in California, two in Illinois and one each in Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington.
Nine of the cases are among people who traveled to Wuhan and two are from person-to-person transmission.
‘We expect more cases and person-to-person spread,’ Dr Messonnier said on Monday. ‘We expect this given the explosive nature of this outbreak in China.’
The death toll in China currently exceeds that of the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak in mainland China with 361 deaths due to coronavirus compared to 349 people from SARS.
However, fatality rates are lower for the current outbreak – two percent compared to the 10 percent mortality rate from SARS.