Confirming 12 cases of coronavirus in the US, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spearheading the US response said that they are preparing to battle the coronavirus outbreak “as if it is a pandemic”.
“We are preparing as if it is a pandemic, while hoping it is not,” Nancy Messonnier, Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on Thursday.
The 12th and latest case in the US comes from Wisconsin. The patient is a woman who travelled to Beijing and “interacted with family members who had coronavirus”. All US patients are “clinically improving”, Messonnier told IANS.
She said the CDC has developed a coronavirus diagnostic kit and the first 200 will be despatched to the US domestic laboratories and another 200 will be distributed to selected international laboratories. “Each test kit can perform 700 to 800 patient samples,” she said.
The novel coronavirus, which initially broke out in China, has infected more than 28,200 people globally. The term ‘pandemic’ itself does not speak of the severity of the coronavirus in the US.
“The data from China suggests that patients who are older with underlying illness are more at risk for severe disease and severe outcomes, including death,” according to the CDC.
“We believe this is the beginning of what could be a long response. Right now we’re aggressively working to contain introduction (of the virus) in the United States,” Messonnier said.
She pointed out that despite years of planning, governments need to “remain humble” and accept that they may not be able to plan for everything.
She said the “pandemic planning” the US has done for influenza is the foundation for the response to novel coronavirus. Coronavirus is the umbrella term for a large group of viruses, including ones that can cause common cold.
Messonnier said the “immediate risk” from coronavirus in the US is low. “We do not recommend the use of face masks for the general American public,” she said.
Replying to a question, she said “fever and respiratory symptoms” have been dominant among US patients.
CDC is recommending global best practice of “wash hands, cover your cough and stay home when you are sick.”
“We do not recommend people to wear face masks, we just don’t think it’s indicated in that situation,” Messonier said.
Responding to a question on the stigma being reported by some Asians in the US, she said, “There’s no reason for the American public to fear Asians in our community and it really saddens me to hear these stories.”