00:26 GMT04 April 2020
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    As the COVID-19 novel coronavirus continues to spread in Italy, the US State Department, in conjunction with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has increased its travel alert to Level 3, advising travelers to "reconsider" their plans to visit the Mediterranean country.

    When this story went to publication on Friday afternoon, 888 cases of the coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China, had been reported in Italy and 21 people had died in the country of the illness. Forty-four of those infected have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University.

    While most of these cases are connected to recent travel to China, the State Department notes that "sustained community spread" has developed in Italy, sufficient to issue an increased travel warning.

    "The CDC has issued a Level 3 Warning for Italy," the State Department said on Friday. "At this time, CDC recommends avoiding non-essential travel to Italy. Travelers should review and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines for the prevention of coronavirus if they decide to travel to Italy."

    The CDC's advisory includes wearing a face mask in public as well as washing your hands often, and avoiding sharing items like cups and utensils.

    The announcement came just moments before the US postponed a meeting with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) scheduled to happen on March 14, according to Reuters.

    Washington has issued travel restrictions for a number of countries where the disease has caused significant outbreaks, with the highest level restrictions being to mainland China (78,800 cases, 2,788 deaths) and South Korea (2,337 cases, 13 deaths). In the US, 62 people are recorded to have contracted the disease, which is related to other epidemic respiratory diseases like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) but also the common cold. No Americans have died.


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