New coronavirus cases spike by nearly 15,000 in China's Hubei province

jarun011/iStock(LONDON) — The Chinese province at the heart of the novel coronavirus outbreak reported a nearly tenfold increase in cases and deaths on Thursday morning, after applying new methodology as to how cases are categorized.

The Health Commission of Hubei Province announced an additional 14,840 cases of the newly identified virus, known officially as COVID-19, and 242 deaths.

The commission explained in a press release that the record spike was due to a change in how cases are diagnosed and counted, with the total number of confirmed cases now including “clinically diagnosed cases,” or patients who showed symptoms of the disease and were diagnosed through CT scans of the lungs, for instance, but have not yet had laboratory testing or died before having the chance.

The expanded criteria is meant to ensure “that patients can receive standardized treatment according to confirmed cases as early as possible to further improve the success rate of treatment,” the commission said.

The overall number of cases in China now stands at 59,841, with 1,366 deaths, including one in the semi-autonomous city of Hong Kong. Roughly 80 percent of those cases have been reported in Hubei province, with the epicenter of the outbreak in its capital, Wuhan, where the first cases were detected back in December.

There are at least 441 cases confirmed in 24 other countries, according to the World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency. The only death from the outbreak outside of China has occurred in the Philippines.

So far, there are only 14 cases confirmed in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The patients are in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin and all but two cases are linked to travel to Wuhan, China.

The novel coronavirus causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, ranging from mild, such as a slight cough, to more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. There is no vaccine yet for the virus, nor any known effective therapeutics.

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