Perspective

US expands response to coronavirus as case count rises in China

As the novel coronavirus at the center of the ongoing outbreak in China continues to spread, officials have decided to expand heightened health screenings among travelers from China to 20 Unites States airports.

After the CDC increased its travel warning to the highest level on Monday, recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, HHS Secretary Alex Azar hosted a press conference to discuss what is being done to “prepare and respond to the threat.”

“The playbook for responding to an infectious disease outbreak is simple and tiered — identify, isolate, diagnose and treat. Track contacts, do the same with them, and then do the same with contacts of contacts,” Azar said. “That is how [we] are handling this outbreak in the U.S.”

According to Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, under expanded screening at 20 U.S. airports — an increase from five airports initially targeted for screening — CDC staff will be added to already existing quarantine stations. She explained that not only will this allow health officials to detect symptomatic, infected travelers, it also will educate potentially asymptomatic infected travelers on what to do should symptoms begin.

To date, there have been five confirmed cases in the U.S., none of whom were identified through airport screening. The CDC said Monday that 110 patients were under investigation in 26 U.S. states.

“Right now, we think the risk is low, but risk is dependent on exposure,” Messonnier said. “While the vast majority of American will not have exposure — some will.”

She said exposed persons “need to be vigilant, and the people around them need to be vigilant.”

According to health officials in China, there have been 4,515 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, including 106 deaths, with nearly 45,000 additional people under medical observation. Other countries, including Germany, Japan and Vietnam, have reported evidence of limited human-to-human transmission. No such transmission has been seen in the U.S., according to officials.

“We are constantly preparing for the possibility that the situation could worsen,” Azar said. “Americans should not worry about their own safety. Part of the risk we face is we don’t know everything we need to know about this virus . ...That does not prevent us from preparing and responding.”– by Caitlyn Stulpin

Disclosures: Azar and Messonnier report no relevant financial disclosures.

As the novel coronavirus at the center of the ongoing outbreak in China continues to spread, officials have decided to expand heightened health screenings among travelers from China to 20 Unites States airports.

After the CDC increased its travel warning to the highest level on Monday, recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, HHS Secretary Alex Azar hosted a press conference to discuss what is being done to “prepare and respond to the threat.”

“The playbook for responding to an infectious disease outbreak is simple and tiered — identify, isolate, diagnose and treat. Track contacts, do the same with them, and then do the same with contacts of contacts,” Azar said. “That is how [we] are handling this outbreak in the U.S.”

According to Nancy Messonnier, MD, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, under expanded screening at 20 U.S. airports — an increase from five airports initially targeted for screening — CDC staff will be added to already existing quarantine stations. She explained that not only will this allow health officials to detect symptomatic, infected travelers, it also will educate potentially asymptomatic infected travelers on what to do should symptoms begin.

To date, there have been five confirmed cases in the U.S., none of whom were identified through airport screening. The CDC said Monday that 110 patients were under investigation in 26 U.S. states.

“Right now, we think the risk is low, but risk is dependent on exposure,” Messonnier said. “While the vast majority of American will not have exposure — some will.”

She said exposed persons “need to be vigilant, and the people around them need to be vigilant.”

According to health officials in China, there have been 4,515 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, including 106 deaths, with nearly 45,000 additional people under medical observation. Other countries, including Germany, Japan and Vietnam, have reported evidence of limited human-to-human transmission. No such transmission has been seen in the U.S., according to officials.

“We are constantly preparing for the possibility that the situation could worsen,” Azar said. “Americans should not worry about their own safety. Part of the risk we face is we don’t know everything we need to know about this virus . ...That does not prevent us from preparing and responding.”– by Caitlyn Stulpin

Disclosures: Azar and Messonnier report no relevant financial disclosures.

    Perspective
    Amesh Adalja

    Amesh Adalja

    As the novel coronavirus outbreak unfolds, it is becoming clear that this virus was likely present in the population before the cluster in the [Wuhan] seafood market. We can continue to expect to see case counts climb. What will be important will be watching the ratio of mild to severe cases to gauge the full risk of this outbreak. Outside of China, fortunately, there have been no deaths reported and no sustained human-to-human spread. Preventing community-based spread outside of China will be a major aim of public health efforts, and as such, there will be an expansion of travel screening in the U.S. An important question is that if sustained spread continues in China for some time, how long will such measures and travel advisories have to be in place? As further epidemiological and clinical severity data become available, it is hoped we will have more clarity on the nature of this novel outbreak.

    • Amesh Adalja, MD
    • Infectious disease, bioterrorism and emergency medicine specialist
      Senior scholar
      Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security

    Disclosures: Adalja report no relevant financial disclosures.

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