China’s National Health Commission on Monday reported 2,048 new cases of coronavirus infections and 105 new deaths over the previous 24 hours. The number of new deaths dropped from the previous day, when 142 deaths were reported, though the increase in the number of new infections remained steady.
The vast majority of cases and deaths have occurred in Hubei Province, where the outbreak began, though the commission’s latest announcement also reported three deaths in neighboring Henan Province and two in Guangdong, the province next to Hong Kong. In all, more than 70,500 people have been infected in China and 1,770 have died so far. Four others have died outside of China as of Sunday night (February 9, 2020). On Thursday the government began counting cases diagnosed in clinical settings, including with the use of CT scans, and not just those confirmed with specialized testing kits.
As the number of coronavirus cases jumps dramatically in China, a top infectious-disease scientist warns that things could get far worse: Two-thirds of the world’s population could catch it. That’s according to Ira Longini, an adviser to the WHO, who tracked studies of the virus’s transmissibility in China. His estimate implies that there could eventually be billions more infections than the current official tally of about 71,400 in China and other countries.
Bloomberg News reports that if the virus spreads to anywhere near that extent, it will show the limitations of China’s strict containment measures, including quarantining areas inhabited by tens of millions of people. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has credited those steps with giving the rest of China and the world a “window” in which to prepare. Quarantines may slow the spread, but the virus had the opportunity to roam in China and beyond before they went into effect, Longini said.
Longini’s modeling is based on data showing that each infected person normally transmits the disease to two to three other people. A lack of rapid tests and the relative mildness of the infection in some people also makes it difficult to track its spread, he said. Even if there were a way to reduce transmission by half, that would still imply that roughly one-third of the world would become infected, Longini said.
As the outbreak of coronavirus has swept through Hubei province, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been preparing for its worst case scenario–a widespread outbreak of illnesses in the US.
“Right now we’re in an aggressive containment mode,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview.
“We don’t know a lot about this virus,” Redfield said. “This virus is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission.”
As of Thursday (February 13, 2020), there were 15 cases of the coronavirus confirmed in seven states: eight in California; two in Illinois; and one in Arizona, Washington, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Texas.