UPDATE: The risk of widespread transmission of coronavirus (COVID-19) in the US in the coming weeks is moderate to high

Mar 10, 2020
2 min read

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

COVID-19, the cause of the current coronavirus outbreak, continues to spread around the world, with a rapidly increasing number of cases here in the US. The CDC is recommending that Americans should be prepared particularly given evidence of community transmission throughout the US.

Based on the current patterns of spread and the lack of testing, the risk of COVID-19 to the individual in the US should be assumed to be moderate to high. For instance, an increasing number of cases reported in the US do not have identified epidemiological links. These cases do not have a defined chain of transmission which means that it remains unclear from whom, when, or where the disease was spread. What’s more, since 80% of cases cause only mild disease (i.e. non-pneumonia or mild pneumonia) these individuals often not aware that they have the infection much less their potential infectivity. However, despite the mildness of their symptoms, these individuals are still able to transmit the infection.

Taken together, these factors make the likelihood of widespread and sustained transmission of COVID-19 in the US quite high. This is particularly true given that the US have chosen not to implement public health measures to contain the spread of disease that other countries have. What’s more, the absence of widespread testing in the US means that we do not even know the true extent of disease or disease epicenters.

While the situation is still evolving with several unpredictable factors, one thing is certain. The extent of disease in the US is currently being under-reported. The disease is currently spreading in at least 17 states in the US, and most likely in all 50 states. And patients and clinicians alike should take this seriously. The best way to beat the disease is not to get it in the first place.

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