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Wednesday,  April 17, 2024 7:00 PM 

CDC nasal swabbing program expanding to Chicago & Miami airports

  • Air
  •   03-13-2024  9:28 am
  •   Pax Global Media

CDC nasal swabbing program expanding to Chicago & Miami airports
Chicago’s O’Hare airport. (Shutterstock/Songquan Deng)
Pax Global Media

An initiative that tests international travellers for COVID-19 and other diseases is expanding to more U.S. airports

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) program that asks arriving international passengers to voluntarily have their noses swabbed and answer questions about their travel began in 2021 at the height of the pandemic.  

The program has been operating at six airports, and on Tuesday (March 12), the health agency revealed that two more locations will be added: Chicago’s O’Hare and Miami.

The additions are meant to provide more information about respiratory infections coming out of South America, Africa and Asia, CDC officials told the Associated Press.

The CDC’s program has been credited with detecting COVID-19 variants faster than other methods.

The genomic testing of traveller’s nasal swabs has primarily focused on COVID-19, but testing also is being done for the flu and respiratory syncytial (RSV).

The self-swab samples are collected on a volunteer basis and participation is anonymous, the CDC says on its website.

Participants answer a short survey and nasal samples can be transferred to CDC laboratories for further testing.

Poeple are not notified of their results, but they are given a COVID-19 home test kit to take with them, the CDC says.

Samples have come from more than 475,000 air travellers coming off flights from more than 135 countries, officials say.

The health agency has also have been sampling wastewater that comes off international flights at a few airports. That testing is for COVID-19, but CDC officials are evaluating the possibility of monitoring wastewater for other diseases.

“Airplane wastewater surveillance is an effective and low-cost tool to monitor pathogens that are circulating globally and detect them early before they spread into communities,” the CDC says.

The CDC has been conducting airplane wastewater sampling since August 2022.

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