Coronavirus outbreak hits 60,000 cases after reporting change

Enlarge / WUHAN, CHINA – FEBRUARY 13 2020: Medical personnel check the conditions of patients in Jinyintan Hospital, designated for critical COVID-19 patients, in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020. Getty | Barcroft media

Case tallies of the ongoing coronavirus epidemic appeared to dramatically spike overnight, rising from over 45,000 global cases on Wednesday to over 60,000 Thursday. But the startling rise of nearly 15,000 cases in one day is basically “an artifact of the reporting” officials at the World Health Organization explained Thursday.

Starting yesterday, health officials in Chinas Hubei province—the epicenter of the outbreak—began reporting the “clinically diagnosed” cases that have been tallied throughout the whole outbreak, rather than only laboratory confirmed cases.

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

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

But these arent just clinical cases that were newly identified yesterday, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHOs Health Emergencies Program, explained cautiously. “Crucially we understand that most of these cases relate to a period going back over days and weeks and are retrospectively reported as cases—sometimes back to the beginning of the outbreak itself,” he said. In other words, the large number of clinical cases reported yesterday are actually cases that have piled up since December.

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

Moving faster

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

Letting doctors diagnose cases based on clinical signs “allows clinicians to move and report cases more quickly,” Ryan said. It ensures “that people get the clinical care more quickly and also allows public health responses in terms of contact tracing and other important public health measures to be initiated. As youve noticed with suspect cases, there have been some backlogs in testing," he said, “and this is alsRead More – Source