The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released a new report saying that programs meant to detect coronavirus cases among air travelers have been ineffective.
The CDC specifically looked at the protocols implemented at selected airports to check temperatures and monitor symptoms among travelers from countries known to have a high rate of virus spread.
“Symptom-based screening programs are ineffective because of the nonspecific clinical presentation of COVID-19 and asymptomatic cases,” the report stated.
Results of the programs, which were carried out between Jan. 17 and Sept. 13, showed that the CDC was able to identify roughly one active case of COVID-19 per 85,000 travelers screened. The CDC screened more than 766,000 travelers, 300 of which met the criteria for public health assessment. From that sample, only 35 people were tested for the coronavirus and nine of them tested positive for the virus, according to the report.
The CDC has identified that the cases in which people infected with the virus were asymptomatic could not be accurately screened. The report said that reasons for the low number of cases of the virus could be due to several factors including the long incubation period of the virus, symptoms that are not specific to just the virus but other illness as well, travelers denying that they had symptoms, and a low presence of the COVID-19 among travelers screened.
The goal of the screenings was to identify passengers who were positive for the virus and isolate them from others.
The report stated that travelers would have better protection from the virus with “more efficient” contact tracing methods for people traveling internationally. It also suggested a system with real-time information that would be sent to United States health departments detailing arrival and predeparture testing as well as passengers taking time to self-isolate.