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WUHAN, CHINA - FEBRUARY 13, 2020: Medical personnel check the condition of patients at the Jinyintan Hospital designated for critically ill patients with COVID-19 in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province, Thursday, February 13, 2020.
enlarge WUHAN, CHINA – FEBRUARY 13, 2020: Medical personnel check the condition of patients at the Jinyintan Hospital designated for critically ill patients with COVID-19 in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province, Thursday, February 13, 2020.

The number of cases from the ongoing coronavirus epidemic appeared to rise dramatically overnight, from more than 45,000 global cases on Wednesday to more than 60,000 Thursday. But the astonishing rise of nearly 15,000 cases in one day is in fact “an artifact of the reporting,” World Health Organization officials explained Thursday.

As of yesterday, health officials in China’s Hubei province — the epicenter of the outbreak — began reporting the “clinically diagnosed” cases counted throughout the outbreak, rather than just lab-confirmed cases.

The difference is that now — only in Hubei — trained medical professionals are allowed to diagnose patients as sick with the new coronavirus based on chest imaging, rather than waiting for lab tests to confirm infection. The busts can detect signs of lower respiratory tract infection in the lungs, a sign of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which the WHO officially called COVID-19, or “coronavirus disease 2019”.

Yesterday, Hubei Province reported 13,332 clinically diagnosed cases.

But these aren’t just clinical cases newly identified yesterday, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, cautions. “It’s crucial that we understand that most of these cases relate to a period going back days and weeks and are reported retroactively as cases — sometimes back to the beginning of the outbreak itself,” he said. In other words, the high number of clinical cases reported yesterday are actually cases that have been accumulating since December.

The reason for the change in reporting is to improve responses to outbreaks in Hubei, Ryan added.

Move faster

Lab tests can be slow anywhere. But testing and medical responses in general are under extreme pressure in Hubei. The province has so far counted nearly 35,000 of the nearly 47,000 lab-confirmed cases of the outbreak. Hospitals are overcrowded and there are reports of shortages of tests and other medical supplies.

Allowing doctors to diagnose cases based on clinical symptoms “can help clinicians move and report cases more quickly,” Ryan said. It will “speed up clinical care for people and also enable public health responses in contact tracing and other important public health measures to be initiated. As you’ve noticed with suspected cases, there have been some backlogs in testing,” he said, “and this will also help ensure that people receive adequate care and that adequate public health measures can be taken.”

“So as far as we know we’re not dealing with a spike in cases of 14,000 in one day,” Ryan concluded. WHO experts are now working with officials in China to try to date each of the newly reported clinical cases to see how they have spread over the past few weeks, he said. “This does not represent a significant change in the trajectory of the outbreak,” he added.

In the meantime, the rest of China and the rest of the world are still required to report only lab-confirmed cases, Ryan noted.

The number of lab-confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide is about 47,000, with about 46,550 in China. That’s an increase of more than 1,800 from Wednesday’s count. 1,369 deaths have been reported worldwide, all but three in China.

The number of cases linked to the cruise ship Diamond Princessquarantined in Japan, rose to 219 Thursday.

There are 15 confirmed cases in the United States. The latest three identified cases were found among people evacuated from Hubei who were already under federal quarantine.

By akfire1

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