Top U.S. health officials laid out plans Tuesday to develop better screening tests, medications and a potential vaccine to combat novel coronavirus, a flu-like illness that spread from China to more than a dozen countries around the world.
The U.S. has five confirmed case, but health officials said that number is expected to rise in the coming days.
Standing alongside Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield and other top U.S. health officials, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar emphasized the need to work with global health experts to prevent the virus from taking hold in the U.S.
“The most important thing to do to stop disease from coming into the U.S. is to stop and contain disease outside the U.S.,” Azar said.
The U.S. cases were confirmed in individuals who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, where the illness originated. Another 110 cases within the U.S. under investigation.
So far, 106 people have died in China due to the virus, and 4,515 more people are sick, Chinese authorities have said.
Several nations, including the U.S., are preparing to airlift their citizens out of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people that is now under lockdown to control the spread of the virus. China has shut down transportation for 17 cities, effectively placing 50 million people under quarantine.
To more quickly identify and diagnose new cases, the CDC is working to improve the accuracy of a rapid diagnostic test for public health officials in all 50 states to use with local patients.
“In this kind of situation, it’s exceedingly important that we don’t misdiagnose somebody,” said Nancy Messonnier, who directs the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, during the news conference.
Anthony Fauci, director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that researchers at the National Institutes of Health also are working to develop a preventative vaccine as well as medication to alleviate symptoms. The vaccine, Fauci said, still requires several months of trials before it can be available to the public.