It’s not a question of if, but a question of when – that’s the warning from America’s top medical scientists regarding the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic.
The United States told Americans on Tuesday to begin preparing for coronavirus to spread within the country as outbreaks in Iran, South Korea and Italy escalated and fears that the epidemic would hurt global growth rattled markets.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) principal deputy director, said that while the immediate risk in the United States was low, the current global situation suggested a pandemic was likely.
“It’s not a question of if. It’s a question of when and how many people will be infected,” Schuchat said.
The warning from the CDC came as England’s chief medical officer, Professor Chris Whitty outlined plans to combat COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, in the event of a major outbreak, including the widespread closure of schools and limiting public transport.
He said: “There’s no secret there’s a variety of things you need to look at, you look at things like school closures, you look at things like reducing transport.”
Professor Whitty said families could also be asked to self-isolate if one of them had symptoms of the virus.
San Francisco declared a local emergency over the coronavirus on Tuesday, despite having no cases, as U.S. officials urged Americans to prepare for the spread of infections within their communities.
California’s fourth-largest city said it made the move to boost its coronavirus preparedness and raise public awareness of risks the virus may spread to the city.
The 14 confirmed U.S. cases of coronavirus have been mostly travel related, with only two cases of person-to-person spread. There are also 39 cases among Americans evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Tokyo and from Wuhan, China.