Title: CDC Expands Infectious Disease Surveillance Program at US Airports
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is ramping up its efforts to detect and monitor infectious diseases with the expansion of its Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program. This initiative, led by the CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch, was originally introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic to identify new SARS-CoV-2 variants and other pathogens. Now, it is being expanded to include testing for over 30 pathogens, including the flu and other respiratory viruses, at four major US airports.
Currently, the program operates Covid-19 surveillance at seven major international airports across the country. However, in order to enhance its capabilities and be better prepared for the ongoing pandemic, the CDC has decided to broaden its scope. With the addition of four new airports, the program will enable the collection of nasal swab samples from international travelers who voluntarily participate in the program upon arrival.
Since its inception, the surveillance program has conducted nasal swab sampling on more than 370,000 travelers, with approximately 6,000 volunteers participating each week. These samples have been collected from individuals hailing from more than 135 countries. Impressively, the program has also sequenced over 14,000 samples to gain further insights through analysis.
In a groundbreaking move, the program is not only limited to collecting nasal swab samples but has also taken the initiative to collect wastewater samples from a single plane. This approach allows for the detection of specific pathogens, including Covid-19, even before they are officially reported. To aid in this endeavor, the CDC has partnered with Ginkgo Bioworks, a biotech company, to help prevent another health crisis from occurring.
Thanks to the surveillance program’s efforts, various Covid-19 variants have been detected in the United States up to six weeks before they were officially reported nationwide. Looking ahead, the program is shifting its focus to monitoring emerging respiratory viruses as the colder months approach. While Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the country have remained steady, the program aims to better understand the genomics of fall respiratory pathogens, track changes in strains, and identify their countries of origin.
As the current flu activity remains low, the expanded surveillance program serves as a crucial step in closely monitoring the potential resurgence of respiratory viruses. With the CDC’s heightened efforts, the goal is to stay ahead of these viruses and prevent further health crises from unfolding.
In conclusion, the CDC’s Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program has expanded its scope to include more pathogens at four major US airports. By collecting nasal swab and wastewater samples, this initiative has already made significant strides in detecting and monitoring Covid-19 variants. As it continues to evolve, the program will play a vital role in safeguarding public health during the ongoing pandemic and beyond.
“Infuriatingly humble tv expert. Friendly student. Travel fanatic. Bacon fan. Unable to type with boxing gloves on.”