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We Might Have a New Public Health Emergency on Our Hands

New type of coronavirus has killed 17 in China, and WHO is meeting to discuss classification
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2020 1:13 PM CST
Updated Jan 22, 2020 2:13 PM CST
Hospital staff wash the emergency entrance of Wuhan Medical Treatment Center, where some infected with a new virus are being treated, in Wuhan, China, on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Dake Kang)
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(Newser) – The World Health Organization held an emergency meeting Wednesday to discuss whether to declare a "public health emergency of international concern" in response to cases of a new type of coronavirus, which has reportedly killed 17 people and sickened more than 500 others in China, per NPR and CNN. (Officials ultimately decided more information was needed, and will meet again Thursday.) The pneumonia-like virus that spreads from person to person was confirmed in Hong Kong on Wednesday, a day after the US reported its first case, while there's another possible case in Mexico. The CDC says several others in the US are being tested for the virus. The latest:

  • First detection: The virus, officially known as 2019-nCoV, was first reported to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31, per CNET. However, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission says the first patient developed symptoms weeks earlier on Dec. 8, per CNN.
  • Underestimation: Officials in China say 509 people have now been infected across the country. But scientists at Imperial College London believe the true number is likely some 4,000 people due to underreporting that could be attributed to mild symptoms or delayed onset.
  • Symptoms: As for those symptoms, they range from mild to severe and include fever, dry cough, and difficulty breathing. Pneumonia can result as the virus progresses. The Washington Post has stories of some of the victims, plus those who are not officially considered victims—including a woman who thought she had a cold but ultimately died after her symptoms, identical to those of others with the virus, never improved. Her official cause of death, however, is listed as pneumonia. Stories like that lead many to believe cases of the virus are indeed being underreported.

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