The CDC Expands Its Airport Surveillance Program

JFK International, one of four gateways that the CDC monitors as part of the TGS program. Photo: Pit Stock / Shutterstock.com

Ahead of the heart of flu season, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expanding its airport surveillance program to include more than just COVID-19.

The CDC said this week that it will begin monitoring the flu, RSV, and other respiratory viruses among arriving international travelers at four airports—JFK International in New York, San Francisco International, Boston Logan International, and Washington D.C.’s Dulles Airport—as part of Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance (TGS) program. 

The program, which launched last year, is voluntary—travelers are not stopped and required to take a sample, rather they are asked to. Samples are completely anonymous, the CDC said, and travelers can simply refuse on their way out of the airport. 

The goal of the TGS program is to give health officials data that could act as an “early warning system” to detect respiratory viruses, including new COVID-19 variants, and, now, RSV, the flu, and more—the CDC said that TGS provided early detection of the BA.2.86 variant within days of its identification last summer. The data is also shared with the country that a traveler came in from. 

According to the CDC, more than 360,000 anonymous travelers coming in from 135 counties have already participated in the program.

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