MANILA — There are now 205 people confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus, or 2019-nCoV as it is being referred to, after Chinese officials confirmed a spike in new cases over the weekend. This included one case in Shenzhen and two cases in Beijing, according to WHO China. South Korea also confirmed its first 2019-nCoV case Monday.
The latest update from China also included another death, bringing total deaths linked to the 2019-nCoV to three. The virus was first found in individuals in the city of Wuhan, in China’s Hubei Province.
The world watches as China uncovers a new coronavirus as the source of the pneumonia-like symptoms that have affected 59 individuals in Wuhan province.
World Health Organization spokesperson Tarik Jašarević told Devex in an email that many of the cases reported over the weekend are not linked to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, which has been suspected to be the source of the outbreak.
On Friday, during a telebriefing, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it will start screening in three airports in the country. This includes John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, and San Francisco International Airport in California, which get direct flights from Wuhan, said Martin Cetron, director of the CDC Division of Global Migration and Quarantine. CDC said screening will also be conducted at the Los Angeles International Airport due to the large volume of passengers arriving at the airport from indirect flights.
Cetron said entry screening is only one part of the approach being taken in the U.S. to rapidly detect passengers presenting with illness, to help slow and reduce the spread of the virus in the country.
“It is early in this outbreak. The virus is novel. And while we have experience with SARS and MERS, humility is important. There is much work to be done as the outbreak investigation unfolds, and very dynamic as you've heard,” Cetron said.
Other countries have also stepped up airport screening, particularly in Asia.
According to the World Health Organization, the spike in confirmed cases “is the result of increased searching and testing for 2019-nCoV among people sick with respiratory illness.”
Wuhan city health officials reported a total of 817 close contacts tracked as of 10 p.m. on Jan. 19, but that “no related cases were found among the close contacts.”
“Given travel patterns and expanded testing, it is possible that more cases will be reported in other parts of China and other countries in the coming days and weeks,” said WHO’s Jašarević.
To date, disease severity and the virus’ transmission patterns have yet to be fully established. Jašarević said much remains to be understood of the 2019-nCoV, including the extent to which it has or will spread.
“We welcome the modelling that has been done by some institutions in relation to this event. This type of analysis is helpful for planning purposes. WHO teams work with several modelling groups to inform our work. Our current package of advice and tools for countries [covering] scenarios has always included the possibility of more cases (within China and the possibility of more exportations),” he said.
WHO says it is possible more cases will be found in other countries.
There is still no clear evidence of sustained human to human transmission, Jašarević said, and WHO is currently working with officials in China and other countries concerned to increase its understanding of 2019-nCoV.
Health experts have raised concerns about the rise of 2019-nCOv cases.
Timeline for the 2019-nCoV outbreak:
Dec. 31, 2019 — Chinese authorities inform WHO’s China office of pneumonia cases in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China, with unknown cause.
Jan. 1 — Officials close the Huanan seafood market, suspected to be the source of the mystery disease, as some of the patients presenting with the pneumonia-like illness were dealers or vendors at the market.
Jan. 3 — China reports a total of 44 suspected patients with the mystery disease.
Jan. 7 — China identifies new coronavirus as cause of the outbreak. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause varying levels of disease, from common colds to severe fatal diseases. Usually found in animals, some can infect humans and transmit between humans. Both SARS and MERS are caused by a coronavirus.
Jan. 9 — China reports first death linked to the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV. A 61-year-old male admitted to hospital in Wuhan with several underlying medical conditions. Apart from respiratory failure and severe pneumonia, the patient also suffered from abdominal tumors and chronic liver disease.
Jan. 12 — China shares the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus, helping countries in testing and tracing any potentially infected people.
Jan. 13 — Thailand reports first imported case of 2019-nCoV. The patient, a 61-year-old woman from Wuhan, did not report visiting the Huanan seafood market.
Jan. 15 — China reports second death linked to 2019-nCoV. The patient was a 69-year-old male with severe myocarditis, abnormal renal function, and severe damage to multiple organ functions.
Jan. 16 — Japan reports another imported case of 2019-nCoV. The Chinese national, a man in his 30s, also did not report visiting the Huanan seafood market.
Jan. 17 — Thailand confirms the second imported case of 2019-nCoV in the country, bringing the total exported cases from China to three.
Jan. 18-19 — Chinese authorities report a spike in 2019-nCoV cases, including first confirmed cases in Shenzhen (1 case) and Beijing (2 cases), bringing the total to 204 confirmed cases. They also report a third death linked to the new coronavirus.
Jan. 20 — South Korea confirms its first case of 2019-nCoV. The patient did not report visiting markets in Wuhan.