Virus outbreak in the US inevitable

A top health official has warned a coronavirus outbreak in the United States is now inevitable, saying it will result in a "disruption to everyday life".

"We expect we will see community spread in this country. It's not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but the rather more correct question to be asking is, 'When this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness?'" said Nancy Messonnier of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"We will maintain, for as long as practical, a dual approach [in which] we continue measures to contain this disease but also employ strategies to minimise the impact on our communities.

"The data over the last week in the spread in other countries has certainly raised our level of concern and raised our level of expectation that we are going to have community spread here."

 

A top health official has warned a coronavirus outbreak in the United States is now inevitable. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)
A top health official has warned a coronavirus outbreak in the United States is now inevitable. (Photo by Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images)

 

It comes as fears of a pandemic have risen sharply after multiple cases of the virus were detected without any clear source of infection in South Korea and Iran.

There is now a total of 80,382 cases of coronavirus around the world, with 2710 deaths.

In the US, there are over 50 infections, including 39 from people who were brought home from Wuhan or the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

Cities across the world have been plunged into lockdown, with borders closed and airports thoroughly checking travellers for fevers or flu-like symptoms.

But Dr Simon Clarke, a specialist in cellular microbiology at England's University of Reading, said the virus was proving "extremely difficult to track".

"It seems that the virus can pass from person to person without symptoms, making it extremely difficult to track, regardless of what health authorities do," he said.

Even the best screening measures could be missing "more than half of infected people", a global team of researchers from US and UK universities said on Monday.

 

Fears of a pandemic have risen sharply after multiple cases of the virus were detected without any clear source of infection in South Korea and Iran. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)
Fears of a pandemic have risen sharply after multiple cases of the virus were detected without any clear source of infection in South Korea and Iran. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

 

On Tuesday, the head of a joint World Health Organisation (WHO) China mission of experts said the world is "simply not ready" to rein in the new coronavirus outbreak

"You have to be ready to manage this at a larger scale … and it has to be done fast," Bruce Aylward told reporters in Geneva, insisting countries everywhere have to "be ready as if this hits us tomorrow".

While it is still too early to call the outbreak a pandemic - when an infectious disease spreads easily across the world - countries should remain vigilant, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Monday.

"For the moment we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus and we are not witnessing large scale severe disease or deaths," he said.

"Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet."

 

 

- with Alle McMahon


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