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Coronavirus: What You Need to Know at SFO

A novel (new) coronavirus is causing an outbreak of respiratory illness in the city of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. This outbreak began in early December 2019 and continues to expand in scope and magnitude. Chinese health officials have reported hundreds of cases in the city of Wuhan and severe illness has been reported, including deaths. Cases have also been identified in travelers from Wuhan to other parts of China and the world, including the United States. Person-to-person transmittal is occurring though it’s unclear how easily this virus is spreading between people at this time. Signs and symptoms of this illness include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing.

What steps are being taken to prevent the spread of this disease?
On Friday, January 17, 2019, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced plans to begin screening passengers arriving from Wuhan at three airports in the US: SFO, JFK and LAX. SFO and JFK are the only US airports with nonstop flights from Wuhan. These screenings began at SFO the following day, on Saturday, January 18, 2019. SFO has three nonstop flights from Wuhan; on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. In addition to these flights, the CDC is also screening passengers arriving from other airports, but who initiated their travel in Wuhan.

Effective January 23, 2019, the Chinese government closed transport within and out of Wuhan, including buses, subways, trains, and the airport, to prevent a further spread of the virus. Nonstop flights between Wuhan and SFO have been canceled as a result.

As an SFO employee, should I be concerned about becoming infected?
At this time, there is only one confirmed case of coronavirus in the US, involving a resident of the state of Washington who recently traveled to Wuhan. At present, this appears to be an isolated incident, and there is no evidence of ongoing transmission of this disease in the United States at this time. We remain in close contact with our CDC colleagues at SFO to understand the latest developments and precautions.

What steps should I be taking to protect myself?
There are everyday preventive measures to reduce the spread of germs and help reduce the risk of transmission of respiratory infections such as this coronavirus. The following are basic infection prevention measures:

  • Avoiding close contact with people suffering from respiratory infections;
  • Washing your hands frequently, especially after direct contact with ill people or their belongings and environment;
  • Avoiding contact/handling of farm or wild animals;
  • People with symptoms of respiratory infection should stay home and practice cough etiquette (maintain distance, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or cough/sneeze into elbow, and wash hands); and
  • Avoiding unnecessary travel to the affected areas, if possible.

Should I wear a mask while working at SFO?
Both the CDC and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) have advised that the wearing of masks is not necessary at this time, but employees may wear a mask if they wish. Please contact your company management or safety representative for more information.

What should I do if I begin feeling symptoms?
Seek medical care if you feel sick with fever, cough, or have difficulty breathing. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your symptoms and where you work. Avoid contact with others and avoid traveling while sick. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

Additional resources
CDC web page on the novel coronavirus:             www.cdc.gov/wuhan

OSHA web page, with worker information:          www.osha.gov/SLTC/novel_coronavirus