Americans warned to prepare as virus picks up steam outside China

Americans warned to prepare as virus picks up steam outside China

The coronavirus epidemic that started in China late last year continues to spread around the world, with hundreds more cases confirmed in South Korea on Wednesday and Italy and Iran racing to try to control smaller, but equally worrisome outbreaks.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans Tuesday to be prepared for the COVID-19 illness to start spreading within the U.S., saying it’s a question of when, not if. On Wednesday, the CDC announced what may be the first instance of a case of the virus in the U.S. that has no known link to overseas travel or any other known cause. It’s in Northern California.

Among the more than 1,500 cases in South Korea — the largest outbreak outside China — was a 23-year-old U.S. service member who’s been ordered to self-quarantine in his home off-base. But he recently visited two U.S. military facilities in the region where South Korea’s outbreak is centered. Thousands of U.S. troops are based around the city of Daegu, where the outbreak has been linked to a large church congregation.

With the global death toll from the flu-like virus now over 2,700 and South Korea, Italy and Iran reporting significant daily jumps in cases, mounting fear that the disease could gain a foothold in other countries has sent stock prices plunging. The CDC’s warning on Tuesday shaved about 3% off stock prices on all the major U.S. exchanges, and Asian and European markets were down again Wednesday.

President Trump tried to downplay fears of the virus and of an economic downturn during a briefing Wednesday evening, saying the risk to Americans “remains very low.” Mr. Trump also announced that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the administration’s coronavirus response efforts, though he emphasized that Pence isn’t a coronavirus czar. 

U.S. economy takes hit in wake of coronavirus spread

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