US Health Agency Warns of Imminent Coronavirus Outbreak in US Communities
By VOA News February 25, 2020
U.S. citizens should expect coronavirus outbreaks in their communities, warns the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC vaccine expert Dr. Nancy Messonnier said Tuesday, "It's not so much a question if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen."
She urged Americans to expect their daily activities to be significantly affected by the virus but could not predict how severe the spread of the virus would be in the U.S.
President Donald Trump has said the U.S. is in "good shape" regarding the virus.
"We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad," Messonnier warned.
The warning comes on the heels of an urgent message from a top World Health Organization official who said Tuesday that countries throughout the world should think about preparing for a coronavirus outbreak and be ready with rapid response plans when the virus arrives.
"If you don't think that way, you're not going to be ready," said Dr. Bruce Aylward, chief of the joint WHO-Chinese mission to combat the deadly coronavirus. "The world is simply not ready, but it can be ready."
Aylward praised China's "extraordinary mobilization" to combat the outbreak as an example of how aggressive public health policy actions could limit the disease's spread. "China knows how to keep people alive," he declared.
He urged countries to prepare isolation areas and hospital beds, and ensure the availability of oxygen and respirators for patients suffering from severe cases of a coronavirus infection.
China and South Korea reported more cases of a new coronavirus Tuesday, as stock markets in Japan had a second consecutive rough session following a day of global losses and U.S. President Trump sought $2.5 billion from Congress to fight the outbreak.
Chinese health officials said there were 71 new deaths and 508 new cases there, bringing the overall toll in the country where the outbreak began two months ago to more than 2,663 dead and 77,500 people infected.
South Korea has been the hardest-hit outside of China, with its total cases rising to about 1,000 Tuesday with ten dead.
Authorities there have delayed the start of the school year, sterilized the halls of the National Assembly and urged people to stay home if they experience fever or respiratory symptoms. Officials also postponed the start of the domestic football league, and on Tuesday the professional basketball league said games would go on without spectators.
South Korean President Moon Jae-In called the situation "very grave" as he made a visit Tuesday to Daegu, where most of the country's cases have been located. Moon pledged the government would give its full support and said South Korea will "achieve a victory" in the fight against the virus.
Iran reported its own spike to 95 total cases with at least 15 deaths.
The United Arab Emirates announced through its state news agency a ban on all flights to and from Iran in response to the virus outbreak.
Monday brought reports of the first cases in several countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman, each of which had links to Iran.
U.S. health officials announced Tuesday the launch of the first clinical trial testing of an experimental drug in hospitalized patients with the coronavirus.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health said the antiviral drug remdesivir is being tested at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in the Midwestern city of Omaha. The first participant was a patient is a U.S. citizen who was quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on governments around the world to do "everything that is needed."
Trump said Tuesday that China is "working very hard" and that he thinks the United States is "in very good shape" at this point.
"We're fortunate so far, and we think it's going to remain that way," he said.
On Monday, his administration made its request to Congress, saying the money would go toward developing vaccines, and to buy supplies for treatment and protective equipment.
Democrats pushed back against the plan, saying the White House is not doing enough while trying to divert funding from other health priorities.
Markets in Japan closed down more than 3% on Tuesday, while markets in China rebounded from a sharp loss in early trading to closing just below Monday's level. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rallied late to a small gain Tuesday.
Key stock indexes in the United States fell about 3% Monday, and futures pointed to smaller losses when the markets open Tuesday.
Italy has also been hit hard with more than 200 cases and at least seven deaths. The government has canceled Carnival events and postponed major football matches, while also closing public sites.
Israel disinvited 3,000 international runners who had signed up for Friday's marathon in Tel Aviv, saying the race could go ahead as planned, but without the competitors arriving from outside its borders.
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