U.S. Health Secretary warned Tuesday that the coronavirus raging across mainland China is a “potentially very serious public health threat,” saying that the Trump administration is expanding screening for the virus from five to 20 U.S. airports.
“We are constantly preparing for the possibility that the situation could worsen,” Azar said during a press briefing Tuesday on the nation’s response to the China coronavirus, which has killed 106 people in mainland China and infected nearly 4,700 worldwide, including in the United States.
“Americans should not worry about their own safety,” Azar said. “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.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier in the day to avoid all non-essential travel to China, expanding its travel warning from the city of Wuhan to the entire country as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.
The briefing, hosted by Azar started at 11:15 a.m. ET at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield will also speak, as well as representatives from the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease Director and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
CDC officials said Monday that the number of “patients under investigation” in the U.S. has almost doubled since Thursday to a total of 110 across 26 states. The disease is not spreading through human-to-human contact in the U.S. and the risk to the public right now is still considered low, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Monday.
German officials confirmed Tuesday what is believed to be one of the first person-to-person transmissions of the infection outside of China.