The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Monday that it will expand testing of samples from international air travelers after infection with COVID-19 and will also screen for influenza and respiratory syndrome coronavirus (RSV) viruses starting in November.
The Agency’s Traveler-Based Genomic Surveillance (TGS) program began in 2021 to support early detection of new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Through this program, CDC conducts voluntary nasal swabs and wastewater sampling at airports.
The program includes seven participating international airports across the country – Los Angeles, New York’s John F. Kennedy, San Francisco, Boston-Logan, Washington-Dulles, Seattle and Newark.
“We always focus on airports that are international hubs and receive flights from a wide range of international locations so that we can get a picture of global developments and identify tensions of concern early on,” said Cindy Friedman, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Traveler Health Division. .
Of the 6,000 nasal swab samples collected each week through the program, about 2,000 are tested for respiratory diseases, Friedman said, adding that nasal swabs from two of the seven participating airports have been tested since October.
Friedman added that wastewater samples were taken from some airports in November, without specifying the locations.
The expansion of the pilot program, which will last several months, comes ahead of the winter months in the United States, when viruses that cause respiratory illnesses tend to spread more.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (link) has warned that it expects hospitalizations for COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus, and influenza infections this year to be similar to last year and higher than pre-pandemic levels.
TGS is a public-private partnership between the health authority and biotechnology company Ginkgo Bioworks DNA And Alafia Holding Company XWELL XXWELWho are carrying out the expansion project.
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