Initial Public Health Response and Interim Clinical Guidance for the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

United States, December 31, 2019-February 4, 2020

Anita Patel, PharmD; Daniel B. Jernigan, MD


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2020;69(5):140-146. 

In This Article


The 2019-nCoV has impacted multiple countries, caused severe illness, and sustained person-to-person transmission making it a concerning and serious public health threat. It is unclear how this virus will impact the U.S. over time. For the general population, who are unlikely to be exposed to this virus at the current time, the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV is considered low. CDC, multiple other federal agencies, state and local health departments, and other partners are implementing aggressive measures to slow U.S. transmission of 2019-nCoV.[4,5] These measures require the identification of cases and contacts in the United States and the effective management of the estimated 14,000 travelers arriving from mainland China to the United States each day.[3] These measures are being implemented based on the assumption that there will be more U.S. 2019-nCoV cases occurring with potential chains of transmission, with the understanding that these measures might not prevent the eventual establishment of ongoing, widespread transmission of the virus in the United States.

It is important for public health agencies, health care providers, and the public to be aware of this new 2019-nCoV so that coordinated, timely, and effective actions can help prevent additional cases or poor health outcomes. The critical role that the U.S. health care system plays in halting or significantly slowing U.S. transmission of 2019-nCoV is already evident: eight of the first 11 U.S. cases were detected by clinicians collaborating with public health to test persons at risk. The early recognition of cases in the United States reduces transmission risk and increases understanding of the virus, including its transmission and severity, to inform national and global response actions.

2019-nCoV symptoms are similar to those of influenza (e.g., fever, cough, or sore throat), and the outbreak is occurring during a time of year when respiratory illnesses from influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, and other respiratory viruses are highly prevalent. To prevent influenza, all persons aged ≥6 months should receive an annual influenza vaccine, and vaccination is still available and effective in helping to prevent influenza.[10] Reducing the number of persons in the United States with seasonal influenza will reduce possible confusion with 2019-nCoV infection and possible additional risk to patients with seasonal influenza. Public health authorities are monitoring the situation closely. As more is learned about this novel virus and this outbreak, CDC will rapidly incorporate new knowledge into guidance for action.