Communities around the world prepare for coronavirus outbreak

With 80,000 cases of COVID-19 across the world, “Nightline” examines the reality of the disease and what may be the first case of community spread in the U.S.
8:20 | 02/28/20

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Transcript for Communities around the world prepare for coronavirus outbreak
Good to get back into the city, because the flights were canceled. There's quite a large line here. Isolated, stranded, under surveillance. There's no people on the streets. About five times a day. Reporter: Hundreds of thousands of people in quarantine, the mysterious coronavirus spreading from country to country. I have to tell you now we're becoming quite afraid. Reporter: The world preparing for a pandemic. So far there are more than 80,000 cases of the virus now known as covid-19, spreading to at least 49 countries. The death count surpassing 2,800. And now the U.S. Is dealing with a dangerous new development. We begin tonight with the new and concerning case of the coronavirus here in the united States. A woman from northern California tested positive for the virus. Officials say she's believed to be the first case of community spread, meaning she had not travelled to a hot zone, and doesn't appear to have been in contact with anyone known to be infected. She had been placed on a ventilator at a local hospital and tested positive for covid-19 four days after symptoms first appeared. They're contacting any individuals who might have been exposed and isolating them. This latest case putting the U.S. Total at 60. Experts are bracing for likely outbreaks. What we should expect is similar to what we're seeing in China. Currently, there are no counter measures for the coronavirus disease. That's a worst-case scenario, and that's how we should prepare for it. Symptoms are common to illnesses like the cold or flu. At mt. Sinai hospital in new York, radiologists like Dr. Michael Chung now have access to scans of infected patients. This patient tested positive and was symptomatic with fever and cough. But within days the scans change. The rounded appearance as well as how it's in the outer portion of the lungs. In the chest wall. This is a more severe case. Reporter: They hope this will help identify and treat covid-19. It's going to be instrumental in not only finding a cure but creating prompt isolation protocols for health care systems. Reporter: Meantime, governments are quarantining anyone who may have come in contact with an infected person. They are feeling a little robbed I guess. Reporter: Like the retired couple who had been in quarantine for weeks. They were on the "Diamond princess" cruise ship when an outbreak forced it to dock in Japan. That's when we first started skyping with them. This is the first time we've been outside in the sun. And it's beautiful. Today's day six. And we're almost over the hump. Reporter: But then John came down with the fever, had to be moved to a Japanese hospital. Melanie is in quarantine at a military base in California. They still aren't sure exactly when they will see each other again. It's been less than two months since the Chinese government confirmed this new virus. Now to that new mystery virus sparking concern around the China reporting dozens of new cases of the deadly new coronavirus. Reporter: On January 11th, state media reported the first death. Nine days later, the first confirmed cases outside China, including the U.S. By the end of the month, the world health organization declared a global health Cases of the coronavirus now surpass sars. Reporter: On February 10th, an alarming milestone. Death toll from covid-19 passed the sars epidemic in 2002 and 2003. But doctors say the vast majority of cases are mild, and there's no reason to panic. I think the public should be well-informed about coronavirus. I do not think there should be extreme worry or hysteria. U.S. Airlines are suspending some flights and offering waivers for Italy. Reporter: In Italy, we found a 23-year-old, a young woman living with her parents in a town outside Milan. Now I'm going to show you how we've been dealing with everything. Reporter: Italy saw a sudden spike. Confirming more than 500 case so far. Many of them in or around Milan. Oh, look at this. We've got so many medicines in here. Reporter: Rosella's family isn't sick, but they can't leave the city limits. The usually busy town was put on lockdown. Oh, there are people queueing over there. That's a pharmacy. A cafe. I go there with my friends. Then you can see it really, really looks like a ghost town. Reporter: Italy's government is trying to clamp down on the spread of coronavirus. Models walked the Armani fashion show in front of just cameras. And soccer teams competing in empty stadiums. We feel like we're in prison. So please, please try to understand the situation we're in. Because you could be in this situation. Reporter: Meanwhile, flights from Italy continue to arrive in the United States. Mauricio landed in New York on a direct flight from Milan. He says when he arrived in Lael there were screenings. But when he arrived at JFK. Nobody asked me. Reporter: Nothing special. I was surprised that there wasn't nay control. Especially because we fly from Milan. Reporter: He sailed through customs and right to his cab. Something like that happens I go immediately to the hospital. Reporter: It's a different experience for Asian travelers. Many flights have been suspended. Passengers who do make it out face multiple obstacles. We've seen videos of Chinese people getting attacked, getting hit, getting punched. So it's very important to put things into context and understand that it's virus that we should be concerned about, not, you know, for example Asians. Reporter: Fear of covid-19 feeding fear on Wall Street as well. Sending the markets diving. We need ar-6. Reporter: For Jeffrey Norwood and small business owners like him that fear is real. About 90% of his inventory comes from China and he's running low. There is no American source. So it's not likeki go somewhere Reporter: Chinese companies are telling him products should arrive soon, but he's nervous. I'm trying to hold it together. So that they don't turn to me and say cancel the orders. Financially, it wouldn't put us out of business, but it would hurt business. Reporter: Experts say there are simple things Americans should be doing to be ready. We need to make sure we are prepared and able to respond fast, efficiently to protect as many lives as possible. If you take medications, make sure you have at least a 30 day or 90-day supply of these items, non-perishable food items, documentation, things that you need every single day many. Reporter: All measures John and Melanie herring will have to take into account when they finally get back to their Utah home. I'm negative! And I am so thrilled! So honey, we're Goin' home! I love you! Ooh! Reporter: The couple sharing the video messages when they found out they will be out of quarantine soon. Well, babe, the happy day is here. I am free to go. They gave me my release. And I am going to be coming back to the usa! So thrilled and so happy and I can't wait to put my arms around you. Reporter: John tested negative for covid-19 but has pneumonia. It is getting better, so the couple has decided to spend the next month at home, just in case. I'm comin' home. I'm so happy my husband's going home. Grateful for U I'm really grateful for the journey, actually. If you don't love what is in front of you, there's just no other choice anyway. You just try to make the best of it. Gma will have the latest on the coronavirus in the morning.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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