Airline stocks swoon on fear about virus outbreak in China

Shares of U.S. airlines that fly to China are down on growing fear about a virus outbreak in that country

Shares of the three U.S. airlines that fly to China fell on Tuesday as fear grew about a virus that authorities say has killed six people and sickened 300 more.

Investors seemed to worry that the virus could spread beyond Asia, like the SARS outbreak that started in 2002.

Chinese authorities also confirmed that the virus can spread from one person to another, not just from animals to humans.

In midday trading, shares of United Airlines’ parent fell 3%, Delta lost more than 2%, and American Airlines was off less than 1%.

The outbreak is believed to have started in Wuhan in central China. None of the U.S. airlines fly to Wuhan, but their Chinese partner airlines do, and some passengers do transfer from a Chinese carrier to an American one.

Fear about the virus increased just as millions of Chinese prepared to travel for the lunar New Year holiday, which starts Saturday. Cases have also been confirmed in Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

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