As the city of Wuhan, China, goes on lockdown because of a coronavirus that has killed 17 people, Hawaii health officials are advising residents to be mindful while traveling and get vaccinated for the flu.

By Tuesday, five major U.S. airports (LAX, SFO, JFK, ATL, ORD) were screening passengers for fever and respiratory issues if they traveled directly from Wuhan, where the virus was first discovered at a seafood market.

But as of Wednesday morning, Chinese officials announced plans to temporarily halt all outbound public transportation, including flights, bus routes and trains in Wuhan for its 11 million residents starting the morning of Jan. 23.

Waikiki masked lady no flu or inluenza ?
Wuhan, China, has suspended travel for all of its 11 million residents to prevent the transmission of a new coronavirus. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

To date, about 300 people in Asia have fallen ill, with just one case confirmed in the U.S. — a Washington state man who had traveled directly to Wuhan.

The coronavirus is reminiscent of past global outbreaks of two coronaviruses, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV, which cause serious respiratory infections.

Hawaii officials from the departments of Health and Transportation and the Honolulu International Airport said they are in contact with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but no screenings were planned for the Honolulu airport due to the lack of a direct flight from Wuhan.

Hawaii State Epidemiologist Sarah Park said much is still unknown about how this particular coronavirus presents and develops in people.

“We see it more and more where animal pathogens are crossing over to the human side,” she said. “Information is still limited but we think what we’re seeing is that while it is a serious virus, it does not appear to be as severe as SARS or MERS.”

Park said symptoms may be similar to the flu, and encouraged anyone who has traveled to Wuhan to keep track of their symptoms.

“If we’re proactive right now and get the flu shot, that will hopefully knock out some of the suspect cases,” she said.

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