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Infectious disease expert says we're 'ill-prepared' for coronavirus

University of Minnesota Professor Michael Osterholm says quarantines aren't going to save the U.S. from a coronavirus outbreak.

MINNEAPOLIS — With twelve cases of novel coronavirus now confirmed in six different states and another 76 cases under investigation, an infectious disease expert with the University of Minnesota says he doesn't believe quarantines are going to stop what's coming.

"What we think will happen over the next several weeks, will be more and more cases will begin to show up that have no obvious contact back to China," said Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "This virus is very much following a transmission model that we see with influenza. Nobody talks about trying to stop seasonal influenza each year. At the very most, we might slow (coronavirus) down just a little bit, nothing that's going to give us a great advantage in terms of vaccines or drugs."

Osterholm co-wrote a new op-ed for Time.com titled 'Why We Are So Ill-Prepared for a Possible Pandemic Like Coronavirus'. He says new research into a vaccine and potential treatments are important but that they are still months away.

"The chances of having an effective vaccine to deal with this outbreak are about the same as our chances of relocating the Grand Canyon to Minnesota. It's not going to happen," Osterholm said. "The talk about a new vaccine is legitimate and we can do research on it, but it is going to have absolutely no impact on this outbreak at all."

Instead, Osterholm says communities and healthcare providers across the country need to begin preparing now for the potential the virus brings.

"We're going to get through it. A lot of what we're trying to do is help businesses, schools, organizations plan for this," Osterholm said. "Just like seasonal flu and getting ready for it. We need every healthcare facility in our state, and for that matter in our country, to really go back and dust off their playbook for what we do if we have a big increase in patients needing really very sophisticated medical care, for pneumonia."

"It's around the world. It's going to do, probably, in many countries around the world, what it's done in China and our job is to get ready for it," said Osterholm.

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