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WHO Expects Coronavirus Cases, Deaths to Escalate


People wear masks on a street in Hong Kong, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 to celebrate the Lunar New Year which marks the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac. Cutting off access to entire cities with millions of residents to stop a new virus outbreak is a…

The World Health Organization says the number of reported cases and deaths from the new coronavirus is probably an underestimation.

The World Health Organization says the number of reported cases and deaths from the new coronavirus is probably an underestimation. The latest reports put the number of confirmed cases at 830, including 26 deaths.

Most of the infections and all of the deaths have occurred in China. A small number of coronavirus cases have been reported in seven other countries, including the United States. All have been mild, and all of those patients have recovered.

World Health Organization spokesman Tarik Jasarevic says it is too early to draw conclusions about the severity of the coronavirus.

"Because at the beginning of any outbreak, you would focus more on the severe cases and you will have more of those and then maybe we are missing some mild cases because people will just be a little bit sick and will not be ever tested and they will recover," Jasarevic said. "We may see more mild cases as surveillance intensifies. So, the issue is not really so much on numbers that we know that will go up."

Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program, says there is no particular treatment for this new pneumonia-like coronavirus.

"There have been a number of compounds that have been used in the fight against coronavirus, but it is very important to recognize that there is no recognized effective therapeutic against coronaviruses," he said. "However, there are potential clinical trials that can be done with agents and that is what we are focused on right now — identifying other therapeutic agents and opportunities to test new drugs."

On Thursday, a WHO expert committee decided not to declare the coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted the virus was an emergency in China, but had not yet become a global health emergency.

He did, however, add the WHO was ready to reconvene another emergency meeting to review the decision if the evolution of the epidemic warranted a re-examination.

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