Taxis wait for passengers at Kennedy Airport in Queens in...

Taxis wait for passengers at Kennedy Airport in Queens in January 2020. Credit: Getty Images/Spencer Platt

Passengers returning from overseas flights to Kennedy Airport will now have the opportunity to be tested for more than 30 pathogens, including flu and RSV, under the expansion of a 2021 pilot program announced Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The initiative, which will last several months, is part of the CDC’s Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program. It builds off an earlier program that tested for COVID-19 variants, officials said.

Participation in the program is voluntary and anonymous, and includes passengers from 135 nations.

“The expansion of the Traveler-based Genomic Surveillance program to flu, RSV and other pathogens is essential as we head into fall respiratory season,” said Dr. Cindy Friedman, chief of CDC’s Travelers’ Health Branch. “The TGS program, which began during the COVID-19 pandemic, acted as an early warning system to detect new and rare variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and will do the same for other respiratory viruses going forward.”

The participating airports include  Kennedy Airport in Queens, Newark Liberty International Airport, San Francisco International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Logan International Airport in Boston and Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., officials said.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates Kennedy and Newark, did not respond to a request for comment.

The pilot expansion comes in advance of the winter months when there is typically an increase in respiratory diseases circulating.

The CDC estimated 80,000 children younger than 5 across the United States were hospitalized because of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, last season. The agency estimates RSV causes between 58,000 to 80,000 hospitalizations annually among that age group.

On Long Island, Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park and Stony Brook Children’s Hospital — the two largest children’s hospitals in the region — are already reporting an uptick in the number of young patients with RSV.

The Genomic Surveillance program, launched in the fall of 2021, helped identify one of the first known cases of the new BA.286 COVID variant in a traveler returning from Japan, the CDC said.

The CDC said Monday that it will also screen wastewater at Kennedy Airport from returning airplanes and from airport terminals, helping to detect potential outbreaks. Records of samples that test positive for one of the pathogens will be sequenced and uploaded to public databases, the CDC said.

More than 360,000 travelers have participated in the testing as of September, the agency said.

A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

Uncovering the truth about the chemical drums A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports.

A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports. Credit: Newsday/Daddona / Pfost / Villa Loarca

Uncovering the truth about the chemical drums A tipster says he told the state about buried drums at Bethpage Community Park nearly a decade ago. Newsday's Ken Buffa reports.

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