2 Sick Passengers on United Airlines Flight Examined by Health Officials Amid Coronavirus Fears

United Airlines confirmed to PEOPLE that the passengers were cleared by health officials

United Airlines
United Airlines. Photo: DANIEL SLIM/Getty Images

Two passengers aboard a United Airlines flight from Shanghai were examined by health officials upon their arrival in Chicago on Tuesday as concerns about the novel coronavirus continue to grow.

Though it was initially feared the passengers showed symptoms of the novel coronavirus, United Airlines confirmed to PEOPLE that they were cleared by health officials.

“Health officials met United flight 836 upon its arrival at Chicago O’Hare earlier today and assisted and released two passengers,” a United Airlines spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE. “We continue to follow CDC guidelines and remain in close contact with authorities in the United States and Asia to further ensure the safety of our customers and employees.”

The Centers for Disease Control announced on Tuesday that it will add Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International to the list of airports that will screen travelers arriving from Wuhan, China, which is suspected to be the location of the virus’ origin.

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Last week, the CDC announced screenings at San Francisco International Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and Los Angeles International Airport.

The false alarm in Chicago Tuesday comes the same day that the first case of coronavirus to appear in the United States was confirmed in Seattle, Washington.

The Washington State patient, in their 30s, had recently traveled to Wuhan, although he said he did not visit any markets, which is where the virus is thought to have initially spread from animals to humans.

Doctors say that other than testing positive for coronavirus, the patient is “characterized as very healthy” and is only in the hospital “out of an abundance of caution and for observation.”

Although the patient came into contact with several people on his journey home from Asia, health officials “believe the risk to the public is low.”

As of Tuesday, there have been around 300 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and six deaths from the infection.

Concerns about the virus have been growing since Chinese officials confirmed Monday that it can spread from human to human.

virus in China
Health care workers move a patient in Wuhan in January. Getty

“Now we can say it is certain that it is a human-to-human transmission phenomenon,” Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a scientist who is leading a government-appointed expert panel on the outbreak, said in an interview on state-run television, The New York Times reported Monday.

The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee is holding a meeting on Wednesday to “ascertain whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.”

Coronaviruses cover several different types of viruses, from the common cold to more severe illnesses like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

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