Rise in new coronavirus cases in China reflects 'broader definition' of infection

Darnell Taylor
February 14, 2020

Mike Ryan, head of WHO's health emergencies program, said a spike of some 14,000 cases in China reported on Thursday was a result of authorities reclassifying a backlog of cases using patients' chest images, and not necessarily the "tip of an iceberg" of a wider epidemic.

Health officials in the central Chinese Hubei province said 242 people had died from the flu-like virus on Thursday, the fastest rise in the daily count since the pathogen, now called COVID-19, was identified in December.

The death toll now stands at 1,380 even after accounting for 116 new deaths in Hubei and five others reported elsewhere in China on Friday, according to the commission.

Health officials said that they looked into past suspected cases and revised their diagnoses, suggesting that older cases were also included in yesterday's numbers.

The extent of the epidemic seemed to deepen on Thursday after authorities in Hubei started counting patients who were diagnosed through lung imaging, in addition to those who undergo lab tests.

Japan is one of the worst affected of more than two dozen countries and territories outside mainland China that have seen hundreds of infections.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that a 15th case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in the United States.

The death toll in China reached 1,367, up 254 from the previous day.

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The outbreak has led to the firing of Jiang Chaoliang as the ruling Communist Party chief in Hubei, just days after the province's top two health officials were removed from their posts.

"Clearly in Wuhan, the health system is under extreme pressure and so the first priority has to be the patient", said Mark Woolhouse, a professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the University of Edinburgh.

Officials in Hubei have been heavily criticized for their handling of the epidemic in a province of nearly 60 million people.

Meanwhile, Vietnam has ordered a lockdown on a community of 10,000 residents northwest of the capital Hanoi, becoming the first location outside of China to have ordered a quarantine for at least 20 days.

The online newspaper VN Express cited a senior official of Ving Phuc province as reporting an increase in cases in Son Loi commune. Vietnam has confirmed 16 cases of the diseases, a lot of them in Son Loi.

The United States is "deeply concerned" about the possible impact of a coronavirus outbreak in North Korea and is prepared to help USA and worldwide organisations contain the spread of the virus, the State Department said on Thursday. The ship has 218 infections among its 3,700 passengers and crew.

"This outbreak could still go in any direction", he told reporters. No cases of the viral illness have been confirmed aboard, according to the ship's operator.

Thailand refused to allow the Westerdam to dock this week after it had already been turned away by the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Guam over virus concerns. The province is at the epicenter of the outbreak.

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