The COVID-19 coronavirus, which erupted in China in December, has killed at least 2,360 people and sickened at least 77,900 worldwide, the majority of cases in mainland China.

Health experts sounded the alarm Friday over the worldwide threat of the coronavirus, with officials warning of its "likely" community spread in the United States and the World Health Organization cautioning that "the window of opportunity is narrowing" for containing the outbreak worldwide.


The COVID-19 coronavirus, which erupted in China in December, has killed at least 2,360 people and sickened at least 77,900 worldwide, the majority of cases in mainland China.


Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Friday that U.S. health officials are preparing for the coronavirus to become a pandemic.


“We’re not seeing community spread here in the United States, yet, but it’s very possible, even likely, that it may eventually happen,” she said. “Our goal continues to be slowing the introduction of the virus into the U.S. This buys us more time to prepare communities for more cases and possibly sustained spread.”


She said the CDC is working with state and local health departments “to ready our public health workforce to respond to local cases.” These measures include collaboration with supply chain partners, hospitals, pharmacies and manufacturers to determine what medical supplies are needed.


She said the “day may come” here where we have to shut down schools and businesses like China has done.


Meanwhile in Geneva, the director-general of the World Health Organization, alarmed by the recent spread of the coronavirus from Iran, warned Friday that while the chance to contain the virus globally still exists, "the window of opportunity is narrowing."


"We still have a chance to contain it, but we have to prepare for other eventualities," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "This could go in many directions, it could be even messy. It is in our hands now ... we can reverse or avert serious crisis. If we don't, if we squander this opportunity, then there could be a serious problem on our hands."


Among other measures, Tedros called for financial aid to help countries fighting the virus to buy critical medical equipment and to strengthen their health systems.


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The world community, he said, has a "fighting chance" to contain the spread of the virus, but we "must not look back and regret that we failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity that we have now."