Coronavirus outbreak: Death toll rises in China as US plans evacuations from Wuhan

International News

WUHAN, China (CBS News) – The U.S. government was racing Monday to evacuate Americans from the city at the center of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in China. As China sends medical reinforcements into Wuhan, officials there warned the virus was spreading faster.

At least 81 people have died in China from the new virus, officially dubbed “2019 novel coronavirus” (2019-nCoV). More than 2,700 others have been infected in more than a dozen countries, including five confirmed cases in the United States. More than 60 additional people in the U.S. were being tested for the disease.

Public health officials from the U.S. and China have warned people to expect many more infections, and there have been unconfirmed claims from anonymous health workers in China that many thousands more than their government is acknowledging could already be infected.

As CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio reports, the rapidly mounting cases were making everyone in China nervous, with Wuhan and at least 16 other cities still locked down Monday in a bid to stem the spread of the virus. A combined population of more than 50 million people were under travel restrictions in China as of Monday.

Authorities believe the virus, which causes flu-like symptoms, likely spread into the human population from an infected animal at a market in Wuhan. Officials have confirmed that the virus has been transmitted person-to-person, but it remains unclear how easy it is to contract from another infected individual, and most virtually all cases thus far can be traced back to Wuhan.

HONG KONG-CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS
People wear masks after visiting Wong Tai Sin temple on the first day of the Lunar New Year of the Rat in Hong Kong on January 25, 2020, as a preventative measure. DALE DE LA REY/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

U.K. expert says up to 100,000 could be infected already

Professor Neil Ferguson, a public health expert at London’s Imperial College, has said there could be 100,000 people already infected with the deadly new strain of coronavirus focused in central China’s Hubei province. Thus far only about 2,700 cases of the disease have been confirmed, with 81 proving fatal in China.

“The upper bound of the cumulative number of infected people as of yesterday is up to 100,000,” Ferguson’s office told CBS News on Monday. Ferguson has worked with U.S. infectious disease experts and helped found Imperial College’s MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, which was expected to release more detailed modelling on the spread of the virus within a few days.

“A lot more information will become available in the next few days and weeks, and case numbers will continue to increase rapidly,” Ferguson told CBS News, adding that the fast-multiplying figures “do not necessarily represent a huge growth rate of the epidemic; it is much more likely down to the health authorities catching up” with efforts to accurately diagnosis a brand new illness.

– By Tucker Reals and Maddie Richards

Hong Kong confirms 2 more cases

Hong Kong has confirmed two more cases of a new virus that started in central China, raising its total to eight. Health department official Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan said Monday that all the cases are connected to Hubei province, where the outbreak started in December. She said there is no sign yet of it spreading to Hong Kong’s general population.

– Associated Press

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