Harvard head of Public Health: Coronavirus likely now ‘gathering steam’

13 Feb, 2020 12:42
source: Singularity Financial

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in US said Wednesday it is preparing for the new coronavirus, which has killed at least 1,115 and sickened more than 45,000 worldwide, to “take a foothold in the U.S”, according to latest report from CNBC.

“There’s likely to be a period of widespread transmission in the U.S., and I hope we will avert the kind of chaos that some other places are seeing.” Harvard’s Marc Lipsitch,  professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and head of the School’s Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics, talked to the Gazette on Tuesday.

“And a couple of things are striking. One is that there are countries that really should be finding cases and haven’t yet, like Indonesia and maybe Cambodia. They are outside the range of uncertainty you would expect even given variability between countries. So our best guess is that there are undetected cases in those countries. Indonesia said a couple of days ago that it had done 50 tests, but it has a lot of air travel with Wuhan, let alone the rest of China. So 50 tests is not enough to be confident you’re catching all the cases. That’s one bit of evidence that to me was really striking. Second, I was reading The Wall Street Journal that Singapore had three cases so far that were not traced to any other case. Singapore is the opposite of Indonesia, in that they have more cases than you would expect based on their travel volume, probably because they’re better at detection. And even they are finding cases that they don’t have a source for. That makes me think that many other places do as well. Of course, we’re making guesses from limited information, but I think they’re pretty likely to be correct guesses, given the totality of information.”

“At some point, we are likely to see community spread in the U.S. or in other countries,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a conference call“This will trigger a change in our response strategy.”

The CDC said Tuesday that a mistake at a lab led U.S. health officials to release an infected coronavirus patient from a San Diego hospital. The patient had been evacuated from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on a government-chartered flight last week.

Jacob Wilson, a 33-year-old American evacuee from Louisiana who works at a tech start-up in Wuhan—the Chinese epicenter of the virus—told The Daily Beast he signed the petition in order to correct what he called “damn near criminal” and “irresponsible” actions by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials responsible for the base’s quarantine protocols.

The petition asks that “everyone in the facility be tested;” that the evacuees be given masks and disinfectants; that hand sanitizers be available in public areas, including a playground; that they not be forced to gather in large groups; that town hall meetings be conducted via conference call; and that public areas be regularly disinfected throughout the day.

Dr. Christopher Braden, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC, said last week that the federal agency was “doing everything possible” to care for the hundreds of American evacuees in their care under mandatory quarantine. But at least some experts suggested such problems would persist as long as there were looming uncertainties about viral transmission.

On February 10th, Santa Clara County declares local health emergency. Two people have tested positive for the coronavirus in Santa Clara County, a county of about two million residents.

The two cases are not related and the county says there is no evidence that there is a person to person spread of the new virus in the county.

Both patients, a man and a woman, recently traveled to Wuhan, China and have stayed home since returning to the U.S. except to seek medical attention.

The first patient is a Santa Clara County resident who had returned home from China on January 24. He traveled through San Jose airport, officials said.

The county said he came into contact with “very few” people since returning to the U.S. from China and has been “self-isolating.”

The second infected person is a visitor of Santa Clara County and traveled through SFO on January 23 to visit family.

If the United States begins to see instances in several parts of the country in which a single case ignites four “generations” of human-to-human infection, Redfield said — meaning a person who contracted the virus infects a person, who infects another person, who then infects another person — then the CDC is likely to conclude containment of the virus has failed.

“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,” he said. “That’s when we’re in full mitigation.”