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China coronavirus update: Flights canceled, death toll, and how it compares to the flu

China coronavirus update: Flights canceled, death toll, and how it compares to the flu
A government worker checks a traveler’s body temperature at the exit of a railway station in Fuyang in central China’s Anhui Province Wednesday, January 29, 2020. [Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images]

The strangely-still-unnamed coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan, China, had a busy 24 hours, expanding its human reach by roughly 25%. Here’s everything you need to know:

  • The numbers: 5,970 confirmed cases in China, with 132 deaths; as many as 10,000 more cases are suspected in China, where there is a shortage of test kits. Another 87 cases have cropped up in 17 other countries, including at least 5 in the U.S.
  • Airlines have stopped China flights. British Airways ceased all flights to and from China, on the recommendation of Britain’s foreign office. Air Asia has also suspended China flights. Other airlines have reduced flights, including United, Lion Air, Air Seoul, Finnair, Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, and Jetstar Air.
  • Americans evacuated. More than 200 Americans, mostly consulate workers, were evacuated by plane from Wuhan. The plane refueled in Anchorage and will land at March Air Reserve Base in California, where passengers will be quarantined.
  • Starbucks closes half of China stores. Starbucks is “monitoring” the situation, which they expect to be temporary.
  • Epidemiologists are still waiting for more information. Incubation period? Rate of spread? Transmission method? (Eyes?) Timing of contagion? All are still unknown, but they’re needed for safety recommendations and modeling. Though a large number of cases have been diagnosed in the last 48 hours, the virus is likely spreading a bit slower—many patients were probably ill days ago.
  • It’s less deadly than SARS. SARS infected over 8,000 people and killed roughly 1 in 10. For context, the common flu infected roughly 35 million Americans last year, killing 34,000 (roughly 1 in 1,000, mostly elderly). This virus is averaging 2 deaths per 100 so far, mostly older people, and it is unknown what level of medical care those cases received.

The virus continues to be called 2019-nCoV or “novel coronavirus.” Typically the World Health Organization collaborates on virus names to avoid regionally disparaging names, such as Ebola, named after an African river, and MERS, which stood for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, also a coronavirus.

Memo to WHO: Today would be a really wonderful day to provide a name.

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