U.S. intelligence officials warned of an uncontrolled illness in the region of Wuhan, China, in late November, ABC News reported on Wednesday.
The National Center for Medical Intelligence submitted a report based on satellite images and wire and computer intercepts showing a threat to the region’s population from the as-yet unidentified contagion, since dubbed the “novel coronavirus” by the World Health Organization. The report apparently raised concerns about the health threat to U.S. military forces in Asia.
“Analysts concluded it could be a cataclysmic event,” a person familiar with the report told ABC. “It was then briefed multiple times to” the Defense Intelligence Agency, the White House and the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
“The timeline of the intel side of this may be further back than we’re discussing,” the person said, “But this was definitely being briefed beginning at the end of November as something the military needed to take a posture on.”
The coronavirus has since caused a full-blown pandemic, infecting over 1,400,000 million people worldwide and killing at least 83,600 as of Wednesday afternoon.
U.S. intelligence believes local authorities in Wuhan attempted to conceal the extent of the outbreak in its initial stages, fearing they would be punished by superiors if they reported large numbers of coronavirus cases. As a result, China’s government does not know the full extent of the outbreak within the country.
The first report of the new coronavirus in U.S. media appeared in the New York Times on January 6.