The U.S. State Department said Monday that Americans should reconsider travel to China because of the deadly coronavirus that has so far infected thousands and taken the lives of 81.
The State Department elevated its alert status on China to Level 3, which is its “orange alert” level. It is the highest level below the red alert Level 4, which instructs Americans “do not travel” to a region or country.
The Hubei province of China, where the virus was first detected in the city of Wuhan, received the Level 4 advisory.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not yet issued its own Level 3 warning for broader China. Currently, only Hubei has that advisory level from the CDC.
The CDC has been closely watching for signs of what’s known as “secondary transmission,” cases of the virus being passed on to people who have not visited China. So far, no such cases have been detected in the U.S. but the CDC is currently investigating over 100 cases of suspected infection.
“At this time in the U.S., this virus is not spreading in the community,” Nancy Messonnier, the CDC’s director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a conference call with reporters on Monday.
The CDC said it is reviewing screening procedures for travelers entering the U.S. from China and could make an announcement on expanded screening as early as Tuesday. Efforts to detect infected individuals may be stymied if it is confirmed that the virus has a long incubation period and can be transmitted even before symptoms arise, something which Chinese officials warned of over the weekend. Messonnier said that so far there has been no clear evidence that the virus can spread by patients not yet sick.
The U.S. does not appear to be considering closing itself off from China travel, a step taken by Mongolia, which shares a vast border with China. The end of the Lunar New Year holiday, during which many Chinese companies are closed, was pushed back to Sunday from Thursday to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” according to a Chinese official. Some Chinese companies are asking workers to stay home for an additional week after the official holiday has concluded.
In New York, public health officials said that it was “inevitable” that the city would be struck by the virus. Nine individuals arriving in New York from Wuhan have been tested for the virus. Four tests have come back negative and five are still being processed. New York City and the surrounding areas have the largest population of Chinese nationals and people of Chinese descent outside of Asia.
The outbreak is hurting shares of travel companies in the U.S. and around the world. Shares of American Airlines fell nearly 5.5 percent on Monday. Shares of Delta were down around 3.4 percent.
–The Associated Press contributed to this story.