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Coronavirus: Dire Warnings and Vulnerabilities

Betsy McCaughey on

With outbreaks raging in Italy, Iran, South Korea and other countries, U.S. authorities now predict coronavirus will strike Americans here, causing "significant disruptions to our lives." The warning came from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official Nancy Messonnier at a Tuesday briefing.

If the virus -- now dubbed COVID-19 -- starts to infect large numbers of people inside the U.S., here's what you need to know.

Is the virus spreading here now?

The only known U.S. cases are travelers to China, their spouses and cruise ship passengers. But people carrying the virus entered the U.S. before the Trump administration imposed travel and quarantine restrictions on Feb. 2. Those early arrivals are likely spreading the disease to others. As of Tuesday, the CDC insists that the virus "is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States." Maybe, but the CDC assessment is based on a lack of testing and actual information. They're flying blind.

In six locations, including New York, federal labs are starting to test specimens from patients with flu-like symptoms to try to identify where in the U.S. the virus might already be.

Even that testing won't tell the whole story. People with no symptoms spread it, explains Marion Koopmans of the World Health Organization. It could become a "pandemic," meaning a disease that causes widespread death on several continents. Or it could fizzle out.

 

What should people do to protect themselves?

Stay out of hospital emergency rooms unless you are severely ill or injured. For now, it's the likeliest place to catch coronavirus.

Anyone unknowingly suffering from coronavirus is likely to go there. That's what "patient zero" in Italy did. When another coronavirus -- SARS -- struck Ontario, Canada in 2003, an infected man waited for 16 hours in a crowded ER, infecting those around him and launching an outbreak that killed dozens.

Some countries are canceling public events, closing businesses and schools, and urging people to stay home. Not so in the U.S., though Messonnier sees that coming and warns families to plan accordingly.

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Copyright 2020 Creators Syndicate, Inc.
 

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