(WTVO/ABC News) — The Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a dire warning to Americans on Tuesday, saying it’s no longer a question of if but when the spread of coronavirus will happen here.
New infections of novel coronavirus within communities in Italy, Iran, and South Korea have health officials preparing for eventual community transmission in the U.S.
At a press conference, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Americans should channel their concern about the virus into preparing for its arrival.
“As we’ve seen from recent countries with community spread, when it has hit those countries, it has moved quite rapidly. We want to make sure the American public is prepared,” she said.
School and business closures may been necessary to prevent community spread of the virus, officials said.
“Disruption to everyday life might be severe,” Messonnier said, adding citizens should “be preparing for significant disruption to our lives.”
Thus far, the virus, officially called COVID-19, has not been spread in American communities. Forty three patients were quarantined after returning from Wuhan, China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship. There have been 14 cases have been detected in the U.S., all in people who have either traveled to or had close contact with someone who traveled to China.
As of Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission said it has received 77,658 reports of confirmed cases and 2,663 deaths on the Chinese mainland. More than 83% of the cases and all but one death were in Hubei province, which includes the city of Wuhan. Chinese authorities have since placed the city under lockdown.
COVID-19 causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, ranging from the mild, such as a slight cough, to the more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is no vaccine yet for the virus.