A top US health expert has warned Americans the coronavirus is likely to spread through the country amid concerns the outbreak could be the dreaded 'Disease X'.
"Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country," Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's National Centre for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases, said.
Her sober forecast came as a World Health Organisation (WHO) adviser said the coronavirus' ability to spread rapidly makes it a contender for the feared 'Disease X'.
The WHO uses the placeholder name for any new pathogen which may cause disease and a future potential epidemic but is currently not known to scientists.
" Whether it will be contained or not, this outbreak is rapidly becoming the first true pandemic challenge that fits the disease X category," Marion Koopmans, head of viroscience at Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands, and a member of the WHO's emergency committee, wrote in the journal Cell today.
"Initial resemblances with the SARS outbreak in terms of its origin, the disease associated with infection, and the ability to spread are clear.
"But since 2003, global air travel has increased more than tenfold, and the efforts needed to try to contain the epidemic are daunting."
WHO experts warned three years ago that a mysterious "Disease X" could spark a global contagion.
Almost 80,000 suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been identified, mostly in China where it originated, with more than 2,600 deaths recorded.
Americans, meanwhile, have been told to prepare for a rise in cases on their soil.
"We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad," Dr Messonnier said. "I continue to hope that in the end we'll look back and feel like we are overprepared, but that is a better place to be in than being underprepared."
There are 14 confirmed cases in the US, not including 39 passengers of a cruise ship in Japan who tested positive and were brought back to the US under the watch of federal health officials.
Dr Messonnier also said the coronavirus outbreak is moving towards becoming a pandemic, or a global spread of the virus.
The term pandemic comes from Greek for "of all the people".
"As community spread is detected in more and more countries, the world moves closer towards meeting the third criteria: worldwide spread of the new virus," Messonnier said.
She added that the US is implementing "an aggressive containment strategy" and issuing "extensive travel advisories" to help slow the introduction of coronavirus into the US.
However, she added: "But as more and more countries experience community spread, successful containment at our borders becomes harder and harder."
The Trump administration has sought billions of dollars in additional funding from Congress to buy protective gear and work on treatments and a vaccine for the new virus.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lambasted the funding plan as "long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency.
US stocks slumped again on Wall Street on Tuesday (US East Coast Time), piling on losses a day after the market's biggest drop in two years as fears spread that the growing virus outbreak will put the brakes on the global economy.
Nervous investors snapped up low-risk US government bonds, sending the yield on the 10-year Treasury note to a record low.
Meanwhile, more companies warned that the outbreak will hurt their finances, including Mastercard and United Airlines. Travel-related stocks took another drubbing, bringing the two-day loss for American Airlines to 16 per cent.
New cases are being reported in Europe and the Middle East, far outside the epicentre of China. The latest cases have raised fears that the virus could spread further.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/coronavirus-crisis-us-warned-community-spread-unstoppable-pandemic-risk-closer/a99f7efe-44a4-41b0-84cf-89a9c3199ca1