live updates Coronavirus outbreak infections ease in China but death toll keeps climbing Download the free app
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/ CBS NEWS
Global health officials have warned the coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 1,100 people and sickened about 45,500 could get worse before it gets better. As of Tuesday, there were only two clusters of the virus outside of China; a significant one on a cruise ship docked in Japan and a handful of cases in southern England. At least 174 people from the cruise have been diagnosed with the disease, and hundreds more were being tested.
But while those foreign disease clusters grew this week, China said the number of new cases confirmed inside the country had declined for two days in a row. As of Wednesday, China had 1,114 deaths from the disease, now officially named COVID-19. The only other fatality has been in the Philippines.
While the declining infection rate in China could indicate that draconian control measures implemented by the country are helping, the chief scientist for the World Health Organization has warned it's still possible that many cases are lurking around the world undetected, so more localized outbreaks could emerge. If that happens, what is still considered a Chinese epidemic could grow into a global pandemic.
The U.S. still had only 13 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, and the CDC said none of them had suffered severe symptoms.
- See more: Full coverage and latest stories on the coronavirus
The WHO gathered top disease specialists Tuesday for a second day of brainstorming in Geneva, to try and answer questions about the new disease. The agency's boss opened the meetings with a plea for global unity against "a common enemy that does not respect borders or ideologies."
New Updates Updated 36m ago
Singapore bank sends hundreds home after employee contracts virus
The bank DBS on Wednesday cleared a downtown office in Singapore and told some 300 employees to work from home after one of its staff was infected with the new coronavirus.
"We are also currently conducting detailed contact tracing with all employees and other parties that the infected person may have come into contact with," DBS said.
All 300 of those sent home had worked on the same floor as the individual who tested positive, according to CBS News partner network BBC News.
Before the new case, Singapore had 47 cases of the new virus and one death — the only fatality outside of China thus far.
The DBS employee was tested Tuesday and the infection confirmed on Wednesday, the BBC said.
"As a precautionary measure, all employees on the affected floor vacated the premises to work from home," DBS said.
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Updated 59m ago
Virus outbreak brings "significant difficulties" for U.S. and other postal services
Postal services worldwide say delivery is being affected by the cancellation of many flights to China.
The U.S. Postal Service said it was "experiencing significant difficulties" in dispatching letters, parcels and express mail to China, including Hong Kong and Macau.
Both the U.S. and Singapore Post said in notes to their global counterparts that they are no longer accepting items destined for China, "until sufficient transport capacity becomes available."
The Chinese mail service, China Post, said it was disinfecting postal offices, processing centers and vehicles to ensure the virus doesn't spread via the mail and to protect staff.
It said the crisis was also impacting mail that transits China to other destinations including North Korea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
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Top WHO scientists says global "micro-clusters" could be looming
The chief scientist for the World Health Organization said Wednesday that there could be undetected cases of the new coronavirus lurking around the world, which could spread the virus in their home communities and create new "micro-clusters" of the disease.
"We have to expect the best, but be prepared for the worst," Dr. Soumya Swaminathan told BBC News. "There is a possibility, we've seen cases slowing down, the number of new cases is down. The measures that China has taken to really contain the outbreak might work. And so it might end up as, as an outbreak that of course unfortunately has killed over a thousand people, but can still be controlled and contained."
"On the other hand," she said, "it might have already spread outside to many countries. As of now we have only about 400 cases, but they might have already seeded other micro-clusters and so this may become still a global outbreak or even a pandemic. So we have to be prepared for that and do everything we can to stop that from happening."
By Tucker Reals
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Updated 5:25 AM
39 more people on cruise ship in Japan diagnosed with coronavirus
An additional 39 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Japan have tested positive for the new coronavirus, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Wednesday. That brings the total number of infected patients onboard to 174.
"Out of 53 new test results, 39 people were found positive," he told reporters, adding that a quarantine official had also been infected with the virus.
"At this point, we have confirmed that four people, among those who are hospitalized, are in a serious condition, either on a ventilator or in an intensive care unit," he added.
The Diamond Princess has been in quarantine since early last week, after the virus was detected in a former passenger who got off the ship last month in Hong Kong.
The ship is expected to stay in quarantine until February 19 — 14 days after the isolation period began. The ship confirmed the 39 new cases in a statement.
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Updated 5:23 AM
Hubei province reports 94 new deaths and 1,638 new cases
Officials in China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, reported 94 new deaths and 1,638 new cases on Wednesday. That brings the global death toll to at least 1,112 and the total number of cases to more than 44,700.
By Victoria Albert
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Updated 5:22 AM
Disease caused by new virus gets a new name
The coronavirus that has sickened tens of thousands of people now has an official name: COVID-19. At a press briefing on Tuesday, the World Health Organization said it had decided on the name after consulting with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health.
"We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people," said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The group also wanted a name that was "pronounceable and related to the disease," he said.
The new name comes from the type of virus that causes the disease. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause the common cold and some more serious diseases, including SARS, which killed 800 between 2002 and 2003.
Tedros said having a name for the new disease is important to prevent the use of other names that might be stigmatizing. "It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks," he said.
– Associated Press
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Updated 5:21 AM
Evacuees toss face masks in the air after completing quarantine
Some of the 195 evacuees who completed their 14-day quarantine east of Los Angeles on Tuesday threw their masks in the air like graduation caps before leaving March Air Reserve Base. Officials gave each a final health screening and deemed them coronavirus-free.
Many boarded buses to take them to airports and eventually home. About 80 miles south, at a military base in San Diego, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an evacuee there is the 13th confirmed case in the U.S.
That person has been isolated and hospitalized. The federal health agency said the risk to Americans remains low and recent research shows, in many cases, the virus is on par with the flu or cold in terms of severity.
"The 13 individuals in the United States have not yet had very severe illness," the agency's Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters in Washington. "In fact, most have had very mild courses."
– Danya Bacchus
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First published on February 12, 2020 / 6:34 AM