Americans trust U.S. government to handle coronavirus outbreak, poll shows

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than three in four Americans say they are very confident or somewhat confident in the U.S. federal government's ability to handle a coronavirus outbreak, a Gallup poll has found, a higher level of confidence than in previous health scares.

Gallup said the results were from a Feb. 3 to Feb. 16 poll that began just days after the Trump administration announced it would suspend entry of foreign nationals who had been to China in the previous two weeks.

About 31% of respondents said they were very confident and 46% said they were somewhat confident in the federal government's ability to handle an outbreak, while 22% said they were not too confident or not confident at all.

The combined positive rating of 77% compares with 64% during the 2017 Zika virus outbreak, 58% during the 2014 Ebola virus outbreak and 67% during the 2009 H1N1/Swine Flu outbreak, Gallup said.

China reported on Thursday a dramatic drop in coronavirus cases, but scientists said the virus could be spread more easily than previously thought by patients who are not showing any symptoms.

China is also struggling to restart factories and other businesses as workers stay home, taking a toll on its growth.

Two-thirds of Americans anticipate the global outbreak will hit the world economy. About 16 percent of respondents believe it will have a "very negative" impact, while 49% expect a "somewhat negative impact, with 34% anticipating none.

Americans' level of worry about being exposed to coronavirus is at about the same level as for two of three other health risks Gallup has measured previously.

More than one in three Americans reported being very worried or somewhat worried that they or a family member will be exposed to the virus. This combined 36% is on par with Americans' worries about severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003 (37%) and exposure to anthrax in 2001-2002 (32%).

The mosquito-borne West Nile virus outbreak in 2002, which topped 4,000 cases in the United States, sparked more concern, with 53% (53%) worried about being exposed to it, Gallup said.

(Reporting by David Lawder and Andrea Shalal)