CDC expands testing for illnesses at major airports

The CDC expands a pandemic-era program to see what pathogens travelers are carrying
Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 6:11 AM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - To keep flyers and families safe and healthy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding surveillance at four major U.S. airports to help prevent the spread of illness.

We’re in for a busy holiday travel season this year. The CDC is expanding its infectious disease surveillance program at Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston and San Francisco airports to now test for more than 30 pathogens, including flu and RSV.

The CDC started this program in 2021 to track COVID-19 variants, collecting nasal swabs from volunteer travelers and analyzing wastewater from certain flights. We’ve reported on the rise in illnesses across the country as flu season becomes respiratory illness season.

By expanding the program at high-traffic airports, the CDC says travelers can help them gather important information about which illnesses are going around.

Officials say over the last month, the program tested over 370,000 travelers through nasal swabs and about 6,000 volunteered weekly.

For travelers hitting the road this holiday season, the CDC recommends you take a few easy steps to keep yourself and your family healthy.

They’re the basics we all know: Frequently washing hands, not touching your face, using hand sanitizer for times when soap and water aren’t available.