Health officials: US nearing coronavirus pandemic

BOSTON (WHDH) - Now that coronavirus has spread to every continent with the exception of Antarctica, health officials believe it is only a matter of time before the outbreak reaches pandemic levels and Americans need to be ready to make necessary lifestyle changes.

With more than 80,000 cases and 2,800 deaths worldwide, coronavirus is not considered a pandemic yet because countries like the United States have been able to keep the outbreak contained to known cases — but experts say they expect that to change.

“In China, it hasn’t been contained. We saw how it started in Wuhan and it spread around the country,” said Dr. Leonard Marcus, Co-Director of the National Preparedness Leadership Initiative at the Harvard School of Public Health. “So, we are at the verge of something along those lines in Europe in the Middle East and here in North America.”

Marcus said that Americans should not panic but there are things that should be done in order to prepare for what health officials believe to be an inevitability.

Things like stocking up on food, medicines and other essential items in the event citizens must shelter in place.

Americans should start thinking of logistical plans for working from home and keeping the kids home from school.

Employers should devise a plan for getting essential employees to work should public transportation shut down.

While Marcus believes the chance of contracting coronavirus is still low, he said that the chance that everyday life will be disrupted by the spread is much higher.

“They could cancel public events and if there are many, many people who are contracting the disease, as we saw in Wuhan they might discourage people from going outside for some period of time,” he said.

Marcus said that it is still a mystery as to why very few children have contracted the novel coronavirus.

According to him, the worst-case scenario is a major outbreak in a developing nation.

“Where that healthcare capabilities are much more limited than we have for example, here in the United States. That really is of concern because that could run rampant,” he explained.

Marcus confirmed that Harvard University has received a $500 million grant from a private company in China to develop a vaccine to treat the virus.

He said it could be more than 9 months before experts are able to develop that vaccine.

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