The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Tuesday that the spread of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. is inevitable. The CDC released the statement following the community spread of the virus to several other countries this past week with no known sources.

According to CDC, the coronavirus spread in the U.S. is not a matter of if but when. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in this country,” said CDC director for National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Dr. Nancy Messonnier. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” she added.

While it remains uncertain how grave the health threat could be, federal health authorities in the U.S. are now preparing for a potential pandemic in the country. Since the virus moves quite rapidly in infected countries, the CDC urged U.S. authorities to prepare the American public for a wider spread of the virus in the coming days.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare in the expectation that this could be bad,” said Messonnier. “I continue to hope that in the end we’ll look back and feel like we are overprepared, but that is a better place to be in than being unprepared,” she added.

This past week, the number of coronavirus cases skyrocketed worldwide, with Italy reporting an astounding 45% single-day increase in infections. Following the first confirmed case of the virus in the country last week, Italy now has 10 reported deaths and 322 confirmed coronavirus cases, making it the largest coronavirus outbreak in a European country.

South Korea also made headlines on Saturday as it raced to contain the biggest outbreak of the virus outside China. As of now, the country already has at least 1,000 cases of the virus and 10 confirmed deaths, pushing the global tally of patients to more than 80,000. The global death toll from the coronavirus is now close to 2,800.

corona virus The novel coronavirus has already infected thousands in China. World Health Organization (WHO) / Facebook