Death toll for coronavirus outbreak rises to 170

The World Health Organization (WHO) is reportedly reconvening experts on Thursday to decide whether the coronavirus should be declared a global emergency, as the death toll rises and officials work to contain the virus. 

The development comes as the number of confirmed cases around the world rapidly climbs. China’s National Health Commission on Thursday reported 7,711 confirmed cases and 170 deaths from the illness, according to The Associated Press. The news service noted that China’s latest figures represented an additional 38 deaths and 1,737 cases in the previous 24 hours. 

The coronavirus, which causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, first appeared in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December and has since spread to several countries, including the United States. Five cases had been confirmed in the U.S. as of Wednesday. China is the only country that has reported deaths from the virus. 

India and the Philippines reported their first cases of the virus this week, both in people who had recently traveled to Wuhan. Vietnam also announced that three of its citizens contracted the virus after visiting Wuhan. 

The rapid spread has caused governments around the world to take measures in an effort to contain the deadly virus. The State Department earlier this week evacuated nearly 200 Americans from Wuhan, and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing has indicated that it is planning additional evacuation flights next week. 

“The Department of State will be staging additional evacuation flights with capacity for private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis, leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on or about February 3,” the embassy said in a statement, adding that interested U.S. citizens should contact the State Department to request a spot on the flight. 

France, New Zealand, Australia, India, Singapore and other nations are making similar efforts to evacuate citizens from China, AP noted. 

About 99 percent of coronavirus cases are in China and the death rate is about 2 percent, WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan told the AP. But he said that the figure was preliminary, adding that fluctuating statistics for the virus are only allowing scientists to produce rough estimates. 

The central Chinese province of Hubei, where Wuhan is located, has reportedly accounted for almost all of the deaths. The virus, which emerged at a wild animal market in Wuhan, has placed the city on a virtual lockdown as authorities work to contain it.


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