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Coronavirus: US facing 'tremendous public health threat' as imported infections rise; World Health Organisation set to launch Wuhan probe
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Coronavirus: US facing 'tremendous public health threat' as imported infections rise; World Health Organisation set to launch Wuhan probe
A top US health official on Friday said the United States " so far free of community spread of the deadly coronavirus epidemic " faces a "tremendous public health threat" as the number of imported infections continues to rise in the country.Nancy Messonnier, the Centres for Disease Control's senior official, told a media briefing that the number of infections in the US now stands at 34. The figure includes 13 infections classified as US cases and 21 "repatriated cases".Of the repatriated cases, 18 were aboard the 3,700-passenger Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan. Over 600 people on the vessel have been sickened by Covid-19 " the disease the virus causes " and two have died. The 18 cases linked to the cruise ship were among 329 US citizens flown back home on a government-chartered plane earlier this week."Let me be clear that we are not seeing community spread in the United States yet, but it is very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen," said Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Centre for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases."Our goal continues to be slowing the introduction of the virus into the US," Messonnier said. "This buys us more time to prepare our communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread. This new virus represents a tremendous public health threat."Messonnier said the CDC believed Washington's "aggressive travel precautions" " which include restrictions that virtually ban entry to mainland-based Chinese passport holders " were working, as the US was still not seeing evidence of the "community spread" that has hit several Asian countries.Among the countries or territories that have said they have detected cases without knowing the infection's source are Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam and Taiwan.Separately on Friday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said its team of public health experts " currently in China to help local authorities investigate the coronavirus epidemic " is set to visit Wuhan, the outbreak's epicentre.Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Centre for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases, said the CDC believed Washington's "aggressive travel precautions" were helping to prevent a community spread of the virus in the US. Photo: Reuters alt=Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Centre for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases, said the CDC believed Washington's "aggressive travel precautions" were helping to prevent a community spread of the virus in the US. Photo: ReutersWHO Secretary General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a daily media briefing in Geneva that the team is to travel to the virus-ravaged city on Saturday. It already has visited Sichuan, Beijing and Guangdong since arriving on the mainland last week.Its 12 specialists, including US citizens, have been working with their Chinese counterparts to learn more about the unknowns related to the virus, such as its exact transmission rate and the most effective way to treat Covid-19, the disease it causes.Before the team was dispatched to China, American officials had expressed concern at China's lack of a response to the US' early January offer to send experts to the mainland.Also in Friday's briefing, Tedros urged the world's governments to remain vigilant against the virus after new infections were reported in Lebanon and Iran with no immediate clue how the pathogen had reached these Middle Eastern countries."The cases that we see in the rest of the world, although the numbers are small, but not linked to Wuhan or China, it's very worrisome," Tedros said.Asked if the epidemic had reached a tipping point, the WHO chief said he believed there remained a narrow "window of opportunity" to contain it " a phrase he has repeatedly used in recent weeks to beat back assertions that a global pandemic is inevitable."This outbreak could go in any direction," Tedros said. "If we do well, we can avert any serious crisis, but if we squander the opportunity, then we will have a serious problem on our hands."Purchase the China AI Report 2020 brought to you by SCMP Research and enjoy a 20% discount (original price US$400). This 60-page all new intelligence report gives you first-hand insights and analysis into the latest industry developments and intelligence about China AI. Get exclusive access to our webinars for continuous learning, and interact with China AI executives in live Q&A.; Offer valid until 31 March 2020.This article originally appeared in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the most authoritative voice reporting on China and Asia for more than a century. For more SCMP stories, please explore the SCMP app or visit the SCMP's Facebook and Twitter pages. Copyright © 2020 South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved. Copyright (c) 2020. South China Morning Post Publishers Ltd. All rights reserved.
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