In an interview on Thursday with CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield warned that the coronavirus will most likely continue through the rest of this year, reported CNN.
“We don’t know a lot about this virus. This virus is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has been preparing for a widespread outbreak of illnesses in the U.S. for some time now. The coronavirus, originating in the Hubei province of China, has made its way to North America with 15 cases of the virus confirmed in seven states: eight in California, two in Illinois, and one in Arizona, Washington, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Texas.
Redfield told Gupta that at this point, the CDC is focused on containing the virus and preventing it from spreading. He added that surveillance strategies, coupled with containment of the virus, will hopefully slow down its progression and give researchers time to develop a treatment and vaccine.
Although the containment phase is designed to give the CDC more time, Redfield says that the coronavirus will become a community virus at some point this year or next.
“We don’t have any evidence that this coronavirus is really embedded in the community at this time, but with that said, we want to intensify our surveillance so that we’re basing those conclusions based on data.”
Part of the containment strategy involves quarantining those who have the virus and placing bans on global air travel. The travel bans currently in place include banning foreign nationals from entering the country if they have visited China within 14 days of their arrival to the U.S. as well as placing U.S. citizens in mandatory quarantine if they have traveled in China’s Hubei province within 14 days of their return. The quarantine period is 14 days.
Redfield acknowledged that there has been widespread criticism of the new travel restrictions, including from the World Health Organization (WHO), which warned that imposing travel restrictions unnecessarily interferes with international travel and trade and may increase fear and stigma with little public health benefit.
Redfield says that the CDC’s obligation is to the American people and that they would rather be criticized for overprotecting rather than under-protecting the country.
According to the WHO, there are now more than 47,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, with the majority of cases and deaths occurring in China.