Top U.S. public health officials said Tuesday that Americans should prepare for the spread of the coronavirus in communities across the country.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the head of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a media briefing Tuesday.

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Feb. 25, 202004:41

Measures to contain the virus in the U.S. so far have involved restricting travel to and from China — the center of the outbreak — and isolating cases identified so far in this country.

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But Messonnier said that evidence that the virus is spreading in other countries, such as Iran and Italy, has raised CDC’s “level of concern and expectation that we’ll see spread” in the U.S.

She added that Americans need to prepare for disruptions to their daily lives, including school closings, working from home and delayed elective medical procedures, as efforts to contain and control the possible spread in the U.S. may accelerate in the coming weeks.

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