WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ U.S. health officials are reiterating that, despite the rapid spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus worldwide, Americans have nothing to worry about.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said there are currently only 15 confirmed cases nationwide and Trump administration is prepared to prevent it from becoming widespread.
“We’re using the full force of the United States government in order to help and protect the American people,” Azar said.
The World Health Organization reports that more than 49,000 have tested positive for the virus, with the vast majority of the cases being reported in China. So far, nearly 1,400 people in China have died after contracting the virus.
Azar said his agency has a two-part strategy to combat the spread of coronavirus, now labeled COVID-19.
“We’re pursuing both angles – what we call aggressive containment – which is the effort to keep it out, but also the aggressive mitigation preparation,” Azar explained.
Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the virus is likely to last beyond this year.
“You can start to think of it in a sense like the seasonal flu,” Redfield said. “The only difference is we don’t understand this virus.”
Scientists are still trying to determine the virus’s severity, how it’s transmitted and if it can spread from person to person before those infected experience symptoms.
Lawmakers, including Senator Doug Jones, D-Alabama and Congressman David Trone, D-Maryland, are optimistic that U.S. health officials will contain the virus.
“They’re doing what they can to make sure we minimize anything here in the country,” Jones said.
“I think they’re all over this one, knock on wood,” Trone added.
Azar said despite the outbreak, the flu poses a much greater threat to someone’s health this time of year. He said that’s why practicing good hygiene is important.
“Wash your hands with soap and water, don’t touch your face, cough into your elbow,” Azar urged.