Cotton concerned about communication from China on coronavirus

Passengers wear masks at the high speed train station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Hong Kong's Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed its first case of the new strain of coronavirus, which has been spreading in China.
Passengers wear masks at the high speed train station, in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. Hong Kong's Department of Health on Wednesday confirmed its first case of the new strain of coronavirus, which has been spreading in China.

After the first case of the Wuhan coronavirus was announced in the United States, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expressing his concern about China's transparency regarding the virus.

"I'm confident that the United States Government is undertaking all possible measures to contain the spread of the disease, but I'm deeply concerned that waging an efficient and successful campaign against this virus depends on the trustworthiness and transparency of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), an organization with a horrendous history in these matters," Cotton wrote. "As you know, in the past the CCP has lied, falsified statistics, and suppressed information about the outbreak of disease in order to protect its political standing and cover for its own incompetence. In 2002 and 2003, the SARS virus killed nearly 800 people and infected over 8,000 worldwide after the CCP denied there was even a health crisis."

The Wuhan coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV, has spread to Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and South Korea, in addition to the U.S., where a man returned from Wuhan, China to Washington state and was later hospitalized. The man is reportedly in good condition. Seventeen people have died from the virus, which has infected hundreds of other people.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus family is a large family of viruses, some of which cause illness in humans and "circulate among animals, including camels, cats and bats." SARS and MERS are two well-known animal coronoviruses that evolved and infected people. The CDC began to screen people at three main ports of entry to the United States — the San Francisco, JFK and LAX airports — on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan on Jan. 17, and plans to add screenings in Atlanta and Chicago.

Cotton asked HHS to "carefully vet" information it receives from Beijing and for U.S. officials who receive "false or misleading information about the disease" from Chinese officials to notify Congress immediately. He also suggested the department contemplate "screening all travelers" from China and, if necessary, "banning entry to those traveling from China."

"It is imperative that the United States, China, and other relevant governments and international bodies cooperate to prevent this virus from becoming a pandemic," Cotton wrote. "This cooperation must be conducted on the basis of facts, not the CCP's political fiction."

The CDC noted it is closely monitoring the situation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and has updated a travel health notice to people traveling to Wuhan City. The CDC said it has established an emergency response system to "better provide ongoing support" for response to the virus and has developed a test to diagnose the virus, which it will share with partners in the United States and across the world.

The outbreak of the new coronavirus was first reported in early December. Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million people, is the capital of the Hubei province. According to the CDC, signs and symptoms of this illness include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. While the origins of the virus are unknown, coronaviruses that infect humans typically spread through close contact between people.

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