The coronavirus will likely grow into a pandemic, but it's not too late to prevent the disease from becoming an epidemic in America, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb warned.
The outbreak of the pneumonia-like disease has already been declared an epidemic in China. A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease, according to the World Health Organization. An epidemic is an often sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in a population in an area, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I think it likely will [become a pandemic] at this point. We will have outbreaks here in the United States," Gottlieb told CNBC in a special "Outbreak" report. "Now, a small outbreak doesn't need to become a large outbreak, a large outbreak doesn't need to become an epidemic here in the United States. There's things we can do, but we're going to need to change our posture."
China's National Health Commission reported 425 deaths and more than 20,400 confirmed cases in China as of Monday evening. The United States has confirmed 11 cases.
"Right now, the steps we've been taking is trying to prevent introduction," said Gottlieb, a physician who served as FDA commissioner from May 2017 to April 2019. "We need to work from the assumption that it's already introduced, it's circulating, there's community spread and we want to spot those outbreaks quickly and intervene to keep them small."
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned earlier Monday that the world could be "dangerously" unprepared for the next pandemic. He pressed the need for member countries to "invest in preparedness" as the virus spreads across the globe.
Investors are starting to worry about how the disease could impact global business. Many American corporations have decided to shut down operations in China and ordered employees to work remotely as officials try to contain its spread.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average sold off more than 600 points on Friday as those fears grew, though the index recovered some of those losses in Monday's session.