The American Airlines flight attendant union is calling on US airlines to step up precautions for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus

The head of American Airlines’ flight attendants union released on Thursday urged US airlines to buckle down and take “immediate emergency measures” to protect flight crews from the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

“The health of our crew members and passengers is a top priority for us and we refuse to compromise their health or safety in any way,” Lori Bassani, the president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA), said in a statement.

“I am urging American Airlines and all airlines to do everything humanly possible to contain the outbreak and minimize any chance of exposure.”

According to the APFA, measures could include “including providing crew members the latest information regarding the 2019-nCoV outbreak, identifying the signs and symptoms of illness in oneself and others, and practical procedures to manage potentially ill persons.”

The coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Wuhan, China, has killed 18 people and infected more than 630.

The virus is suspected to have initially jumped from animals to humans at a seafood market. Scientists have since confirmed it can spread from human to human.

Most cases are in China, around Wuhan specifically, but cases have been confirmed in at least eight other countries: Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, and the US. Four people in Scotland are being tested for the virus. 

US health officials began screening incoming passengers from Wuhan at airports last week. However, the screening did not prevent infected passengers from getting onto planes in the first place, potentially spreading the virus.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways said on Thursday that it would allow cabin crew to wear medical masks while working on flights to or from mainland China, according to Channel News Asia.

Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea are also screening passengers.

The entire city of Wuhan has been quarantined by the Chinese government as officials race to contain the spread of the virus. Five other cities have also been placed under quarantine orders — about 23 million people are impacted.

The virus is marked by fevers and pneumonia-like symptoms. Public health officials are particularly concerned due to the timing of the outbreak coinciding with the busy Lunar New Year travel period.

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