CDC: New virus’s risk for U.S. public remains low


Following confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the risk to the U.S. public remains low but more cases are likely.

“The immediate risk to Americans is low. However, they should expect to see additional cases as well as cases in close contacts and human to human transmission,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.  

In January, a man in his 30s in Washington state became the first U.S. patient, also diagnosed after returning from a trip to the outbreak’s epicenter in central China.

The CDC is expecting more Americans to be diagnosed with the newly discovered virus in coming days, as worldwide the number of confirmed cases has passed 800.

The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. It is a member of the coronavirus family that’s a close cousin to the deadly SARS and MERS viruses that have caused outbreaks in the past.

Those first two patients did the right thing, recognizing their travel risk and alerting doctors to it, so that health authorities could get them isolated to prevent spread, tested promptly, and start monitoring people who’ve had close contact with them.

Dr. Messonnier, says  “We have a layered approach to identify patients with novel coronavirus in the United States. Our goal is to identify them quickly so they can be treated promptly.”

It took about 36 hours for the first U.S. patient to be tested, receive the results from the CDC in Atlanta and put in the hospital after he went to a clinic Sunday morning, according to a timeline released Friday by health officials in Washington state.

The incubation period is thought to be two weeks. But it’s also a heavy flu season, and some of the symptoms are similar, Messonnier said.

“I completely understand why people would be concerned, but the immediate threat to the American public is low. Travelers returning from Wuhan should be on the lookout for symptoms of a fever and a cough or respiratory infection. If they have those symptoms, they should call their health care provider,” she stressed.

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