Amid fears over coronavirus outbreak, LAX passenger taken to hospital for evaluation

A passenger who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday evening was taken to a hospital amid fears over the spread of coronavirus.
A passenger who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Wednesday evening was taken to a hospital amid fears over the spread of coronavirus.
(Paul Morse / Los Angeles Times)

A traveler who arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on a flight from Mexico City was taken to a hospital early Thursday for an evaluation amid growing concerns over the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

The passenger, who was not identified, arrived at the airport on American Airlines Flight 2546 shortly before 6:40 p.m. Wednesday. The person was screened by officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the airport after the flight. Based on their recommendation, an ambulance was called shortly after midnight to take the person to a hospital, said Heath Montgomery, an LAX spokesman.

Montgomery could not provide specific symptoms the person was experiencing. CDC officials could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday morning.


American Airlines confirmed in a statement that a traveler on one of its flights received medical attention at the airport.

“The safety of our customers and team members is our top priority. We are in close contact with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials and will coordinate with them on any required health and safety-related measures,” the airline wrote in a prepared statement.

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If the passenger is determined to have contracted coronavirus, it would be the first confirmed case of the disease in California. Los Angeles County public health officials Wednesday said it was “very possible” the area would see at least one patient, given the number of people traveling between China and the L.A. area.

“A significant number of resources across Los Angeles County are focused on protecting the public’s health at large,” said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Department of Public Health. “We will keep everyone informed as more information becomes available. We are urging the public to remain calm, as it is very unlikely that they are at risk of contracting this virus.”

On Tuesday, experts from the CDC confirmed that a man in Washington state had been sickened by the coronavirus, marking the first confirmed case in the United States.


The patient, a resident of Snohomish County, Wash., recently returned to the U.S. after visiting the region around Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. Once inside the U.S., he began to experience pneumonia-like symptoms and notified his doctor about his travel history. Test results for the virus returned positive over the weekend.

Though the United States has not seen a major outbreak, the virus has spread widely across Asia in the last month, killing at least 17 people and sickening hundreds more, according to Chinese officials.

In China, the illnesses from the newly identified coronavirus first appeared last month in Wuhan, an industrial and transportation hub in central China’s Hubei province. Other cases have been reported in Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong reported their first cases Thursday.

Chinese health officials initially said that most patients infected with the virus in Wuhan were exposed to live animals in a large seafood market, suggesting that the virus jumped from another species into humans and may not spread directly from person to person. But the Washington state patient, along with several others, said he had not visited the market.

On Monday, Zhong Nanshan, a Chinese government scientist, announced on Chinese state television that the virus can be transmitted between humans.

Airline passengers arriving from the outbreak regions are being screened for symptoms of the virus at LAX, San Francisco International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The CDC said it would begin monitoring travelers at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport this week.

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.