As officials said the number of new cases in China appeared to have stabilised, experts at the centres for disease control (CDC) said they were preparing for the disease to spread here.
“At some point, we are likely to see community spread in the US or in other countries,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s national centre for immunisation and respiratory diseases, told reporters on a conference call.
According to CNBC, she added: “This will trigger a change in our response strategy.”
Health officials had confirmed 13 US cases of the virus, now named COVID-19, short for Corona Virus Disease.
Ms Messonnier said the CDC was talking with manufacturers of medical supplies, such as masks and gloves, to ensure enough were available in case of an outbreak.
“At this time, some partners [in other countries] are reporting higher than usual demand for N95 respirators and facemasks,” she said.
Meanwhile, in Geneva, offices with the World Health Organisation said while the number of of new cases in China had stabilised, the apparent slowdown in the epidemic spread should be viewed with “extreme caution”.
““This outbreak could still go in any direction,” said the WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
At the end of a two-day meeting on research and innovation into measures to tackle the new viral outbreak, Mr Tedros welcomed the energy and enthusiasm of scientists starting work.
He added that a WHO-led advance team that travelled to China earlier this week had made “good progress” on the composition and scope of its work.
The CDC said it had not yet been invited to send in experts to assist with the investigation of the coronavirus outbreak.
An advance team of World Health Organisation medical experts arrived in China on Monday to help investigate the outbreak, and the United States has been waiting for approval to send its experts as part of the WHO team.
Ms Messonnier said the CDC has monitored since mid-January more than 30,000 travellers coming to the US. from China. She said it had not detected any cases from returning travellers.
At the same time, traveller are being ask to monitor their own symptoms and limit their outdoor activities, she added.
“Our goal is to be as least restrictive as possible, while ensuring the safety and health of all Americans,” she said.
“We are continually reassessing our recommendations around quarantine and self-monitoring.”
Additional reporting by Reuters