Health authorities expect coronavirus spread on US soil
WASHINGTON: American health authorities said on Tuesday they ultimately expect the coronavirus to spread in the United States and are urging local governments, businesses and schools to develop plans such as cancelling mass gatherings or switching to teleworking.
Officials are also worried the outbreak poses a threat to the security of the US drug supply chain as a high proportion of ingredients used to make medicine is made in China, where the virus was first identified.
"Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country," Ms Nancy Messonnier, a senior official with the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, said.
QUESTION OF WHEN
"It is not so much a question of if this will happen... but when this will happen, and how many people in this country will have severe illness."
The comments mark a significant escalation in the level of threat being conveyed to the US public and come amid fears of a pandemic, as the disease has taken root in several countries outside China, including Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
The virus has killed more than 2,700 people in China and infected at least 78,000.
There are so far 57 recorded cases in the US. In the absence of a vaccine, the authorities are relying on non-pharmaceutical interventions.
"For schools, options include dividing students into smaller groups, or in a severe pandemic, closing schools and using Internet-based tele-schooling," said Ms Messonnier.
"For adults, businesses can replace in-person meetings with video and telephone conferences and increase teleworking options," she continued, adding that on a larger scale, cities may need to cancel mass gatherings.
In the case of hospitals, it may mean delaying elective procedures. - AFP