CDC says risk of coronavirus to general U.S. public remains low

ATLANTA — Sixteen international locations including the U.S. now have confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Officials say five people have tested positive for the illness in the U.S. The virus has claimed the lives of at least 80 people in China.

Channel 2′s Wendy Corona was at a Centers for Disease Control briefing Monday, where, despite growing fears about an outbreak, health officials are still calling the risk to the U.S. low at this time.

“Risk depends on exposure,” said Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “At this time, we have a handful of patients in the U.S. with the virus. However, it is not spreading in the community.”

Officials did say screenings for the virus will continue at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for two reasons -- so officials can quickly detect the illness and respond to those people, and also to educate travelers on what to do if they develop coronavirus symptoms.

The CDC is asking people to avoid non-essential travel to Hubei Province and recommends precautions in other areas of China.

Messonnier said there's no need to worry about the virus being transmitted through international products.

"Coronavirus is most commonly spread most often by respiratory droplets, and there’s no evidence to support transmission of this novel coronavirus with imported goods," Messonnier said.

At least one passenger at Atlanta's airport said she's still worried about the deadly virus.

"It's a little bit scary to think about something along the line of SARS," Ruthie Miltenberger said.

SARS and MERS are other coronaviruses that originated in bats. The CDC is using that information to guide doctors through how to handle this new coronavirus.

Some people Corona talked to said they weren't scared of the illness, but are taking precautions.

“In general, when something like that is going around I try to stay out of large groups of people,” traveler Vance Cheatham said. " I don’t feel like it’s reached that point in the U.S. yet."