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Coronavirus Spread Slows, But Death Toll Jumps to 1,113

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 12, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- While the number of new cases of coronavirus in China slowed on Wednesday, the death count has now risen to 1,113, Chinese health officials reported.

Those totals far exceed the toll of the 2003 SARS outbreak, in which 8,098 were infected and 774 died worldwide, the Associated Press reported. On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) also gave the infamous virus a new name: COVID-19.

In the United States, 13 infections had been confirmed as of Tuesday. The latest case involved one of the hundreds of evacuees who were sent to four military bases and quarantined in the past two weeks. That patient is now in isolation in a hospital near March Air Reserve Base in San Diego, the AP reported.

Things are much worse for Americans on board a cruise ship named the Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined in the Japanese port of Yokohama. Thirty-nine new cases were reported there on Wednesday, the APsaid. There have now been 174 cases reported, and at least 23 of those are American patients.

Meanwhile, the first group of 195 American evacuees, who were flown out of Wuhan, China, on Jan. 29, have been cleared from their quarantine, the AP reported. More than 500 Americans who were evacuated last Thursday remain under quarantine, the news service said.

Late last week, a 60-year-old man living in Wuhan, China, became the first American citizen to die from the new coronavirus that first surfaced in that Chinese city.

The man, whose name has not been disclosed, died last Thursday at Jinyintian Hospital in Wuhan, the U.S. Embassy in China said Saturday.

It's not clear why the man was not able to leave Wuhan on one of a number of U.S. State Department evacuation flights that brought hundreds of Americans to the United States over the past week, but he may have already been too ill to fly.

Last week, the United States began to bar entry to any foreigners who have recently traveled to China. U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to the Hubei province of China, where Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is located, will be quarantined for up to 14 days, U.S. health officials said. U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to other parts of China will face health screenings and voluntary quarantines of up to 14 days.

Many U.S. citizens have already fled China. Over the past two weeks, five flights have evacuated a total of about 840 Americans from China, according to the U.S. State Department.

"The measures we are taking may not catch every single returning traveler with this novel coronavirus, given the nature of this virus and how it's spreading," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the U.S. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a media briefing last week. "But if we can catch the majority of them, that will slow the entry of this virus into the United States."

Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced recently that it had fast-tracked a test for the virus in an effort to help speed screening efforts.

"Today, the test kits will start shipping to over 100 U.S. public health labs," Messonnier said during a media briefing last week. "Initially, 200 test kits will be distributed to U.S. domestic laboratories, and another 200 will be distributed to selected international laboratories. Each test kit can perform 700 to 800 patient samples."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the American actions were taken because there are "a lot of unknowns" surrounding the virus and its transmission path, the New York Times reported.

The temporary entry ban applies to foreign nationals, with the exception of relatives of citizens and permanent residents.

The WHO has already declared the new coronavirus outbreak an international public health emergency.

Experts fear the outbreak could become a pandemic, where there are outbreaks on more than one continent.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.



-- Robert Preidt



SOURCES: Feb. 5, 2020, media briefing with: Nancy Messonnier, M.D., director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; The Washington Post; The New York Times; CNN; Associated Press

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