Travellers wear protective masks at Hong Kong High Speed Rail Station on Jan. 29. Photo: Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

The collision of urbanization, population growth and the rapid movement of people and goods across borders is heightening global pandemic risk.

Why it matters: Aside from the tragic human cost, outbreaks such as the coronavirus, and the fear that accompanies them, are threatening to roil geopolitics and the global economy.

What's happening: A number of factors are exacerbating risk.

  • "Travel times have rapidly decreased," says Amesh Adalja, a doctor and emerging infectious disease expert at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. "Viruses can now spread at the speed of a jet rather than a steam-liner."
  • On top of that, growing populations and movement to cities are forming mega-metros — like Wuhan, China — where masses of people in close quarters make it easier for diseases to spread, he says.

At the same time, advancements in medicine are making us more resilient to new diseases.

  • We have more sophisticated hospital equipment, better antibiotics and antivirals.
  • China "has been fairly open in sharing genetic sequences," Tom Bollyky, director of the global health program at the Council on Foreign Relations, told reporters on a call Wednesday. "That allowed for the development for a diagnostic. And the vaccine side is underway."

"The hysteria associated with an outbreak like this probably could cause more damage than the virus itself," Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, told reporters.

The hysteria around the outbreak could even accelerate the ongoing "decoupling" of the U.S. and China, as American companies ponder moving their factories and supply chains out of the country to hedge against the risk of the pandemic.

The bottom line: It's crucial for health officials around the world to be as transparent as possible when dealing with such an outbreak, but the coronavirus cases come as tensions between Washington and Beijing are peaking.

  • China, though quick on some information sharing, has been reluctant to share other types of crucial data about the virus, U.S. health officials say. Advisers to the CDC told CNN they're lacking basic information about who's getting infected with the disease and how it's spreading.
  • "The main thing is to maintain trust and self-reporting. ... These are the kinds of things that snuff out outbreaks," says Bollyky. "It does seem like, in the early days of this, it was not gotten right."

Be smart: While this new strain of coronavirus has killed 132 people so far, this flu season took 8,200 lives in the U.S. alone, reports Axios' Bob Herman.

Go deeper: What's happening with the coronavirus

Go deeper

The national security risks hiding in Trump's debts

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The blockbuster New York Times report on President Trump’s taxes reveals that the president is $421 million in debt, with more than $300 million coming due during Trump’s potential second term — and the identities of the president’s creditors remain unknown.

Why it matters: If some, or all, of this debt is held by foreign actors, it raises serious national security implications.

23 mins ago - World

House report: U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to adapt to China threat

Xi Jinping and other Chinese politicians and delegates listen to the national anthem duirng the closing of the 19th Communist Party Congress in 2017. Photo: Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

The House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday released a report finding that the U.S. intelligence community has failed to adapt to the growing threat from China, arguing that it will struggle to compete on the global stage for decades to come if it does not implement major changes.

The big picture: The 200-page report, based on thousands of analytic assessments and hundreds of hours of interviews with intelligence officers, determined that the intelligence community's focus on counterterrorism after 9/11 allowed China "to transform itself into a nation potentially capable of supplanting the United States as the leading power in the world."

Updated 26 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Tim Scott says Trump "misspoke" when he told Proud Boys to "stand by"

Photo: Bonnie Cash/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told reporters on Wednesday that he believes President Trump "misspoke" when he told the far-right "Proud Boys" group to "stand back and stand by" in response to a question about condemning white supremacy at the first presidential debate.

Catch up quick: Moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump on Tuesday, "Are you willing, tonight, to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down?" Trump asked who specifically he should condemn, and then responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by. But I'll tell you what, somebody's got to do something about antifa and the left."

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!