On Wednesday, Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said health authorities believe that the new coronavirus transmission could still be prevented in the United States.
However, he warned that the nation is now more vulnerable to human-to-human transmission.
In an interview with STAT, Dr. Redfield said, “We’re still going to see new cases. We’re probably going to see human-to-human transmission within the United States.”
“At some point in time it is highly probable that we’ll have to transition to mitigation” as a public health strategy, using “social distancing measures,” he added.
He explained that preventive measures such as the closure of certain public facilities and other techniques will be implemented to protect people against the disease caused by the new coronavirus, which is now officially known as COVID-19.
Dr. Redfield said, “We’re not going to be able to seal this virus from coming into this country, but we do gain time by prolonging the containment phase as long as we can, provided that we still believe that’s a useful public health effort.”
“That’s where we are right now in the United States,” he added.
The new coronavirus has sickened 14 people so far in the United States, with no deaths reported. Among them, 12 visited China, where the outbreak began.
The CDC director said, “Once we get greater than three — so four or more is our view — [generations of] human-to-human transmission in the community … and we see that in multiple areas of the country that are not contiguous, then basically the value of all of the containment strategies that we’ve done now then really become not effective. That’s when we’re in full mitigation.”
Dr. Redfield’s remarks came after some experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended the strategy, “containment of elimination,” to combat the outbreak, which was successful during the 2003 SARS outbreak.
However, the ongoing coronavirus epidemic is nearly six times larger than the SARS outbreak that affected over 8,000 people and killed 800. The new coronavirus outbreak has affected more than 60,000 and killed 1,369 people so far.
Dr. Redfield said that China has not been able to contain the virus in spite of aggressive restrictions on traveling to try to stop the spread.
“Those countries that are still largely seeing cases that are really, like us, directly from Hubei province, there’s reason to still stay in the containment mode rather than turning that off and going right to mitigation,” he said. “Because once you’re into mitigation, you will probably start to see more cases that may have been able to be contained.”
Meanwhile, the United States and other nations have started taking important steps to reduce the risk of new infections by ceasing issuing visas to foreign nationals who have been in China in the past 14 days. In addition, public health officials have also been quarantining people arriving in the United States if they have been in Hubei province.