Why the US is ‘not nearly as prepared as we need to be’ to deal with China’s coronavirus

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Medical workers at the Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, China, where patients with 2019-nCoV were being treated. Image: Reuters
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Now, with word of the first U.S. patient to contract the new virus that has killed 17 people in China comes the inevitable question: Is the United States better prepared for the catastrophic outbreak authorities have long feared?

“The big picture,” said Tom Frieden, former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who oversaw the Ebola response, “is that we’re better prepared than we were before, but not nearly as prepared as we need to be.”

[Johns Hopkins’ Thomas] Inglesby said he is confident that hospitals in the five cities that could receive passengers on flights from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the outbreak — have been warned to be on alert.

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The first U.S. coronavirus patient offers little evidence of how well the system responded. After returning from two months visiting family in Wuhan and developing symptoms on Jan. 16, he guessed he could have been infected by the virus and sought care at a clinic Jan. 19, John Wiesman, secretary of health for the state of Washington, said [January 22]. The patient appears to have a mild case of the infection. Health authorities said they are monitoring 16 people he came into contact with.

The next person may not be so healthy or well-informed.

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