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Coronavirus death toll tops 600 in China; doctor who warned of outbreak dies

Medical staff prepares to treat passengers while the World Dream cruiser is docked at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal, Hong Kong on Feb. 5, 2020. Hong Kong authorities are keeping 3,600 passengers and crew members under quarantine on the cruise ship World Dream after three previous travelers were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus and escorted with ambulance. (Miguel Candela/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire/TNS)

The coronavirus continues to spread rapidly in China, with the nation now reporting 636 deaths and more than 31,000 people infected, according to multiple reports.

In Japan, 41 additional passengers on a cruise ship docked in Yokohama harbor have been diagnosed with the virus, the Associated Press reports. Twenty people with the virus already have been removed from the ship, where 3,700 passengers are being quarantined.

The AP also reports that Dr. Li Wenliang, 34, who was “reprimanded” by police in China for “spreading rumors” when he tried to raise alarms about the virus, has died from the illness. Wenliang worked in a hospital in the Wuhan province, the area where the outbreak began.

 

“If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier, I think it would have been a lot better,” Li said in an interview with the New York Times via text messages. “There should be more openness and transparency.”

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The New York Times reports that the numbers from China likely are underreported as the nation struggles keep up with the outbreak. USA Today reports the virus has been largely contained to the Chinese mainland, with just over 300 cases reported in about two-dozen other nations. Twelve cases have been diagnosed in the U.S., and there has been one death in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines, USA Today reports.

Still, the Times reports the World Health Organization is focusing on determining how to quickly diagnose the virus in order to prevent its spread. WHO is sending 250,000 test kits worldwide to help speed up diagnoses, the Times reports.

Researchers are working to develop a vaccine for the virus, the AP reports, but testing might not begin until April and it could be a year before a vaccine is ready for widespread use. In Texas, researchers have a vaccine for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) that they are encouraging authorities in the U.S. and China to try. The coronavirus is very similar to SARS, the AP reports.

Chinese residents diagnosed with the virus, including all citizens in Wuhan, are being rounded up and placed in quarantine camps or designated hospitals, the Times reports. Government officials are going to every home and testing the temperatures of all residents in Wuhan.

USA Today reports officials with the Centers for Disease Control predict there will be more cases of the virus in the U.S. Officials are hoping expanded testing and quick isolation of those with the virus will keep it contained.

“We have the opportunity to slow it down before it gets into the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, tells USA Today. “We made an aggressive decision in front of an unprecedented threat. Action now had the biggest potential to slow this thing down.”

While other nations are reporting infections, there have been reported cases from North Korea, CNN reports, even though it is surrounded by countries that are battling the virus. CNN reports North Korea has been taking the virus seriously and is being “uncharacteristically transparent” with its efforts to fight it.

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© 2020 Advance Ohio Media