SARS-CoV-2 molecular diagnosis at airports to minimize travel-related COVID-19 spread

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Following the identification of SARS-CoV-2, screening for air travel helped mitigate spread, yet lessons learned from a case study of air travel within Canada display enhanced techniques to better identify infected individuals, informing future responsive screening. While international travel bans limit infectious spread beyond a country’s borders, such measures are hardly sustainable economically and infrequently address domestic travel. Here, we describe a case study from Canada, where a diagnostic laboratory at point of travel conducted real-time PCR-based detection of SARS-CoV-2 in support of existing interventions, including clinical and epidemiological questionnaires, and temperature checks. All mining workers departing from a populated urban area flying to one of two sites (Site A and B) in a remote northern Canadian region, which we deemed “at-risk”, because healthcare services are limited and vulnerable to epidemics. Data collected between June and November 2020 on 15,873 clinical samples, indicate that molecular diagnosis allowed for identification of 13 infected individuals, who would have otherwise been missed by using solely nonpharmaceutical interventions. Overall, no outbreaks, COVID-19-related or other, were detected at the point of travel up to December 2021 since the implementation of the laboratory, suggesting this screening process is an effective means to protect at-risk communities. The success of this study suggests a process more practical than travel bans or an unfocused screening of air travelers everywhere.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number11753
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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