Enlarge /. WUHAN, CHINA – FEBRUARY 13, 2020: Medical personnel checks the condition of patients at the Jinyintan Hospital, which is intended for critical COVID-19 patients, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province on Thursday, February 13, 2020.
The number of cases of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic appeared to increase dramatically overnight, increasing from over 45,000 cases worldwide on Wednesday to over 60,000 on Thursday. But the amazing surge of nearly 15,000 cases in a day is basically "an artefact of reporting," officials from the World Health Organization said Thursday.
As of yesterday, health officials in the Chinese province of Hubei – the epicenter of the outbreak – reported the "clinically diagnosed" cases that were recorded throughout the outbreak, not just cases that were confirmed by the laboratory.
The difference is that now – only in Hubei – trained medical professionals can diagnose patients with the new corona virus using breast imaging instead of waiting for laboratory tests to confirm an infection. The chest images can detect signs of lower respiratory tract infection in the lungs, a sign of the disease caused by the new coronavirus, officially designated by the WHO as COVID-19 or "Coronavirus Disease 2019".
Yesterday, the Hubei Province reported 13,332 clinically diagnosed cases.
However, these are not just clinical cases that were newly identified yesterday, Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO Health Emergency Program, careful. "The bottom line is that most of these cases span days and weeks and are reported retrospectively as cases – sometimes until the outbreak itself begins," he said. In other words, the large number of clinical cases reported yesterday are in fact cases that have been increasing since December.
The reason for the change in reporting is to improve the outbreak response in Hubei, added Ryan.
Laboratory tests can be slow anywhere. However, tests and medical reactions in general are extremely stressed in Hubei. The province has counted nearly 35,000 of the nearly 47,000 outbreaks confirmed in the laboratory. Hospitals are overwhelmed and reports of a lack of tests and other medical supplies have been reported.
Doctors can diagnose cases based on clinical signs. "Doctors can move and report cases faster," said Ryan. It ensures that “people receive clinical care more quickly, and also enables responses to public health to be initiated regarding contact tracking and other important public health activities. As you noted in suspicious cases, there was some backlog in the tests, "he said," and this will also help ensure that people are adequately cared for and that appropriate public health measures can be taken. "
"So, as far as we know, we're not dealing with an increase in cases of 14,000 in a 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 is not a significant change in the outbreak trajectory," he added.
In the meantime, the rest of China and the rest of the world only have to report laboratory-confirmed cases, Ryan noted.
The total number of COVID-19 cases confirmed in the laboratory is around 47,000 worldwide and around 46,550 in China. This is an increase of over 1,800 compared to Wednesday. 1,369 deaths have been reported worldwide, all but three in China.
The number of cases related to the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan rose to 219 on Thursday.
There are 15 confirmed cases in the United States. The last three identified cases were found in people who had been evacuated from Hubei and were already in federal quarantines.