- A coronavirus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, has killed 2,810 people and infected more than 82,000 around the world.
- The virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, has spread to at least 47 other countries.
- At least 60 deaths have been reported outside of mainland China.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The death toll of the coronavirus outbreak has reached 2,810, with more than 82,000 people infected. China has seen a drop-off in its rate of new cases, but the virus seems to be gaining momentum in other parts of the globe.
As of Thursday, the coronavirus – which causes a disease known as COVID-19 – has spread to every province and region in China as well at least 47 other countries. At least 60 people have died outside of mainland China.
The zoonotic virus may have jumped from animals to people at a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan. Researchers think the virus originated in bats, and one study suggests the disease may have spread from endangered pangolins to people.
The US has reported 60 cases, including 42 passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan.
The World Health Organization considers the outbreak an international public-health emergency, and warned that the window of opportunity to contain it could be narrowing.
Here’s everything we know.
The coronavirus has killed at least 2,810 people.
“The people who are likely to die first will have other illnesses,” Adrian Hyzler, the chief medical officer at Healix International, which offers risk-management solutions for global travelers, told Business Insider.
Indeed, most patients who have died were elderly or otherwise unwell, according to Chinese officials.
The virus has infected nearly 82,548 people as of Thursday.
The vast majority of cases, about 95%, are in China.
This chart shows the rate at which the coronavirus has spread.
But the true number of infected people is probably higher than the official total.
Academics from Imperial College London suggested in early February that only about one in 19 people infected with the virus were receiving a diagnosis.
China has changed the way cases are counted multiple times.
On February 13, the Hubei province’s health commission added 14,800 people to its list of cases and reported 242 additional deaths – an enormous single-day jump. The commission said the spike was due to a change in the way cases were counted: The newer numbers included clinical diagnoses made via CT scans of patients’ lungs in addition to lab-test results.
On February 20, however, the commission went back to only counting lab-confirmed cases. Some patients that had been confirmed via CT scans tested negative for the virus, so they were subtracted from the total.
China’s National Health Commission also removed 108 deaths from the fatality count on February 14, since it said those deaths had been double-counted.
The virus’ pneumonia-like symptoms include fever and difficulty breathing.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a person could be at risk if they have:
- Fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness, such as coughing or difficulty breathing, after traveling to Wuhan or having close contact with someone who was ill and is now under investigation for the virus in the past two weeks.
- Fever or symptoms of lower respiratory illness after having close contact in the past two weeks with someone who’s been confirmed to have the virus.
Chinese health officials say the incubation period for the virus ranges from one to 14 days, during which time carriers can be infectious.
A female tour guide in Japan has tested positive for the virus a second time on Wednesday, providing further evidence that people can get the coronavirus over and over.
The patient – as a woman in her 40s living in Osaka, Japan – first tested positive for the virus on January 29. She was discharged from the hospital on February 1 and declared virus-free on February 6.
Nearly two weeks later, she developed throat and chest pains. She tested positive again on February 26. China has also reported multiple cases of people getting reinfected.
More than 3,000 healthcare workers have been infected.
Research published earlier this month found that nearly a third of hospitalized patients studied at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University were healthcare workers.
On February 7, Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan who was censored after sounding the alarm about the coronavirus, died from the disease. The 34-year-old doctor alerted a group of alumni from his medical school about a worrisome pneumonia-like illness in December. But Li was silenced by the police in Wuhan and forced to sign a letter saying he was “making false comments.”
He later caught the coronavirus and died. In total, at least eight healthcare workers have died from COVID-19. Neurosurgeon Liu Zhiming, a director at the Wuchang hospital in Wuhan, also died of the coronavirus, as did Peng Yinhua, a 29-year-old doctor who postponed his wedding to help treat patients.
Few children have gotten sick, but Chinese authorities reported that a baby received a diagnosis just 30 hours after being born.
Other one-off cases of the virus in children include a 9-month-old girl in Beijing, a child in Germany whose father had the virus as well, and a child in Shenzhen who was infected but displayed no symptoms.
But the virus seems to affect mostly adults. A study published in late January speculated that “children might be less likely to become infected or, if infected, may show milder symptoms” than adults.
Disease experts say it’s good that the virus hasn’t spread much among kids because children are less likely to wash their hands and cover their mouths – behaviors that can spread germs.
The first case of the coronavirus was reported in Wuhan in December. The central Chinese city has a population of 11 million.
Cases have been confirmed in at least 47 other countries.
Outside of China, cases have been reported in Afghanistan, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Nepal, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, the Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, the US, and Vietnam.
The World Health Organization said on Monday that the virus has “pandemic potential.”
The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public-health emergency on January 30. For now, the organization doesn’t recommend limiting the movement of travel or trade.
The global-health emergency declaration has been used five times since it was created in 2005.
“They only do this for extraordinary illnesses that are of international concern,” Hyzler said. “Suddenly the world is alerted to a much greater extent and they’ll start pouring a lot more assistance and aid to airports, to transport hubs, and do their best to control this outbreak.”
The WHO said the virus isn’t yet a pandemic.
“For the moment, we are not witnessing the uncontained global spread of this virus, and we are not witnessing larger-scale severe disease or death,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. “Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet.”
South Korea announced more than 500 new cases on Thursday.
South Korea has confirmed a total of 1,766 cases as of Thursday.
The nation saw a spike in coronavirus cases after a 61-year-old woman transmitted the virus to other members of a fringe religious group, the controversial Shincheonji Church of Jesus.
The woman infected 43 other church members during an event at The Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony. Worshippers there are forbidden to wear face masks, the New York Times reported. Many of the people who have since gotten sick are either church members or had contact with a church member.
On Sunday, South Korean president Moon Jae-in said the country faced “a grave turning point” in its efforts to contain the outbreak.
Iran has reported 245 infections and 26 deaths — the highest number of coronavirus deaths outside China.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed an order Thursday that ordered the closing of all universities for one week and banned public gatherings like weddings, concerts, and sports games through March.The ban on public gatherings will lift in time for the Persian New Year on March 20, however.
Multiple Iranian senior officials have contracted the virus, including Iran’s deputy health minister, the vice president for women and family affairs, and the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission.
Some Middle Eastern countries – including Turkey, Pakistan, Armenia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan – have restricted travel to and from Iran.
Japan has closed all elementary, junior high, and high schools until early April.
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said at a cabinet meeting on Thursday that the next two weeks will be “an extremely critical period” to prevent the virus from spreading among children.
A senior member of the International Olympic Committee said the future of the Tokyo Games could be in jeopardy.
IOC member Dick Pound told the Associated Press that the games were more likely to be canceled than postponed or relocated. The final decision will likely come in May. For now, he added, athletes should continue training.
“As far as we all know, you’re going to be in Tokyo,” Pound said. “All indications are at this stage that it will be business as usual. So keep focused on your sport and be sure that the IOC is not going to send you into a pandemic situation.”
Italy banned public events in 11 towns, closed public buildings, and restricted transport in the country’s northern region. Its case total has reached 528, and 14 people have died.
“We are asking basically that everyone who has come from areas stricken by the epidemic to remain under a mandatory house stay,” Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, said in a press conference on Saturday.
Israel recently barred entry to non-Israelis traveling from Italy after a man who returned from Milan tested positive for the virus. The country also barred non-Israeli travelers from China, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan.
The US has reported 60 coronavirus cases in total, including 45 repatriated citizens.
US health officials issued a dire warning to American citizens on Tuesday: Prepare for a coronavirus outbreak.
“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a press briefing. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”
The US reported its first potential case of “community spread” on Wednesday: a California patient with no known exposure to the virus.
A resident of Solano County, California, was admitted to the UC Davis Medical Center on February 19 but wasn’t tested for four days, since the patient didn’t meet the CDC’s criteria for testing.
The CDC said the person wasn’t exposed to any people known to have the virus, nor did they travel anywhere with confirmed cases. It’s a sign that the virus could be spreading in the US.
Two US patients transmitted the coronavirus to their spouses.
In Chicago, a woman in her 60s transmitted the virus to her husband. She had recently traveled to Wuhan to care for her elderly father, but her husband did not travel with her. He is in stable condition, CDC authorities said, and the woman is reportedly doing well, too.
In California’s San Benito County, a 57-year-old man passed the virus to his wife after returning from Wuhan. Both were hospitalized at the University of California, San Francisco.
Forty-two of the US patients were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
Last week, 328 Americans who had been quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan were brought back to the US.
Fourteen sick people were kept isolated on the plane, but others who were on the flight later tested positive. Everyone who was on the cruise has been quarantined at US military bases for two weeks.
Health experts and US officials have criticized the decision to quarantine people on the ship, suggesting that the confined spaces and poor hygiene practices on board may have helped the virus spread.
The Trump administration has imposed a travel ban on foreign nationals who have been in China within the past 14 days.
The ban went into effect February 2, with exceptions made for immediate family members of American citizens and permanent residents.
US citizens returning home who have been in China’s Hubei province – where Wuhan is located – within the past 14 days may be quarantined for up to two weeks.
Three US citizens who were evacuated from Wuhan and put under quarantine have tested positive for the virus.
Many other countries – including Japan, South Korea, Australia, France, and the UK – have also evacuated citizens and employees from China.
The CDC has issued a travel warning to avoid travel to China.
Many experts think the coronavirus likely jumped from animals to people at a seafood market in Wuhan. But a recent study suggested the virus could have originated outside the market.
Since most of the early patients had links to one market where live animals were sold, scientists pinpointed it as the likely origin point of the virus.
But a group of Chinese scientists recently published a study suggesting that the virus could have started somewhere else. Though the first 41 cases were reported on December 31, the scientists determined that the virus could have started spreading from person to person as early as late November. The seafood market in Wuhan, they wrote, may have “boosted” the circulation of the virus.
Researchers think the new coronavirus originated in bats, then jumped to an intermediary species — most likely pangolins, pigs, or civets — that passed it to people.
Researchers at the South China Agricultural University have suggested that the endangered pangolin may have been the intermediary species between bats and people.
An earlier paper in the Journal of Medical Virology suggested that the virus might have jumped from bats to snakes to humans, since the protein codes favored by the Wuhan virus closely resembled the protein codes in snakes. But that’s unlikely – Cui Jie, a virologist who helped identified SARS-related viruses in bats in 2017, said the strain from Wuhan was clearly a “mammalian virus.”
SARS also originated in bats. It jumped to humans from civet cats a Chinese market that sold live animals. SARS killed 774 people from November 2002 to July 2003.
COVID-19 is more contagious but less deadly than SARS. The two belong to the same coronavirus family.
The total number of cases and deaths have far surpassed those of the SARS outbreak.
Chinese officials have warned that the virus can mutate.
A study of a Chinese family in the southern province of Guangdong found that the virus mutated several times as it spread from one family member to the next.
But Michael Farzan, a biologist at Scripps Research, told STAT that the mutation rate for the virus is “much, much lower” than that of the flu.
“That lowers the chance that the virus will evolve in some catastrophic way to, say, become significantly more lethal,” Farzan said.
In late January, officials quarantined Wuhan and nearby cities by shutting down all transportation. They remain locked down.
All of the city’s public transportation – including buses, metros, and ferries – was halted on January 23. Trains and airplanes coming into and out of the city were also shut down, and roadblocks were installed to keep taxis and private cars from exiting.
Wuhan’s 11 million residents were told not to leave the city, barring special circumstances.
China has imposed travel restrictions on the rest of the Hubei province as well. Huanggang, a city of about 7.5 million people, placed its urban core under lockdown on January 23, closing subway and train stations as well as theaters and internet cafés. Additional cities followed suit with their own travel restrictions.
A CNN analysis found that more than 780 million people in China – more than half the population – are under some sort of travel restriction.
Wuhan officials said on Monday that they would ease quarantine restrictions, but reversed that decision just hours later.
The easing of travel restrictions would have allowed some people to leave Wuhan if they were deemed healthy, though they would still have been quarantined at their destinations.
But hours after that announcement, a new statement declared it “invalid” because it was made without proper authorization.
Tourist attractions throughout China, including Shanghai Disneyland, remain closed.
The park closed January 25. The Badaling section of the Great Wall is temporarily closed as well.
New hospitals have already been built in Wuhan. Construction on two of them took just 10 days.
Construction on the first hospital, the Wuhan Huoshenshan Hospital, started January 23. The facility – which includes 1,000 beds – welcomed its first patients on February 3. By its tenth day of operation, the building was running at about full capacity, according to official figures reviewed by Business Insider.
The second hospital, the Leishenshan Hospital, is slightly larger: 1,600 beds. The site’s construction started January 27, and the building was completed February 6. Eleven days after it opened, the building was at half capacity.
China has also turned an exhibition hall, gymnasium, and sports stadium into emergency medical sites.
Doctors in Wuhan have reported that there aren’t enough resources to treat the large number of patients.
China has less than two physicians for every 10,000 residents, according to data from the WHO.
In Wuhan, patients have faced hours-long lines to receive medical care, the BBC reported. According to Reuters, some people with symptoms of the virus were denied full-time admission to local hospitals in Wuhan because there were no beds available.
The ban on transportation in Wuhan has also forced people to travel by foot to hospitals, The New York Times reported.
Test kits were reportedly reserved for patients with the most severe symptoms.
The New York Times reported that doctors in Wuhan were running short on test kits earlier this month. After a person has been tested, it takes one to two days for the results to come back. Combined, these factors create a lag time between when people are infected and when cases are confirmed via blood tests.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, all travelers should wash their hands frequently with soap and water, making sure to scrub for at least 20 seconds, the CDC says.
Travelers should also avoid touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Wearing a mask is unlikely to be your best defense, however.
“There’s little harm in it,” Eric Toner, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Business Insider. “But wearing masks, except in the situation of a healthcare provider, has never been shown to be a very effective way to protect yourself from infectious diseases.”
Airports around the world have implemented screening protocols.
Twenty US airports – including New York’s John F. Kennedy, Los Angeles International Airport, and Chicago’s O’Hare – are screening passengers for the virus. Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea are also screening people.
The Chinese government has barred citizens from booking overseas tours, flights, and hotel stays.
There are no vaccines to prevent humans from contracting a coronavirus.
Five leading drug companies – Johnson & Johnson, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, GlaxoSmithKline, Moderna, and Gilead Sciences – have announced plans to research and develop treatments for the new coronavirus.
Rosie Perper and Aylin Woodward contributed to this report.
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