Story at a glance
- The World Health Organization says the increase is the result of a change in how cases are diagnosed.
- The new metric was put in place after top officials in China were ousted.
- There are more than 1,300 people dead and nearly 60,000 infected in China.
China is reporting a spike in deaths and infections from the coronavirus Thursday, just one day after health officials reported the number of newly confirmed cases in the country had declined steadily for the past week.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday the jump in cases is the result of a “broader definition” of cases that includes not only lab-confirmed cases, but also clinically diagnosed cases based on symptoms and exposure, rather than confirmed laboratory tests.
WHO said in the last 24 hours, China has reported 1,820 laboratory-confirmed cases, bringing the total to 46,550. In addition, 13,332 clinically confirmed cases in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, have been reported.
Health officials said only a trained medical professional can now classify a suspected case of coronavirus as a clinically confirmed case, and only in Hubei province. The rest of China and the world still need to only report laboratory confirmation.
Outside of China, WHO reported 447 cases from 24 other countries and two deaths. One death took place in the Philippines, and one was recently reported in Japan.
The new diagnostic approach was implemented the same day top officials in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the epidemic, were replaced as part of a major shakeup in response to public criticism of how the country has handled the outbreak.
Health officials are reportedly now including infections diagnosed by using lung scans of symptomatic patients, which they say will help get more patients into needed care faster and make it easier for health officials to allocate resources and assess treatment options, according to the New York Times.
The news of the increase comes a day after the WHO said cases in China appeared to be stabilizing, but warned it was too soon to tell if the virus was actually showing signs of slowing down.
In the U.S., Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials said the agency is preparing for the coronavirus to “take a foothold” in the country, adding that there will likely be a community spread.
As of Thursday, 15 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in the U.S.