The head of the World Health Organization is warning that a few cases of the novel coronavirus that have been spread by people who never traveled to China could be “the tip of the iceberg,” as officials reported the highest single-day death toll since the epidemic began.
Meanwhile, Chinese authorities lashed out at Western media reports that Beijing was not fully cooperating with international health experts.
In a tweet on Sunday from Geneva, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the “spread outside #China appears to be slow, but could accelerate. The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries; in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg,” he wrote, adding, “Containment remains our objective, but all countries must use the window of opportunity created by the containment strategy to prepare for the virus’ possible arrival.”
Over the weekend, the number of deaths from 2019-nCoV, as the virus is officially known, surpassed those killed by severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, during the 2003 outbreak that originated in southern China. Like SARS, 2019-nCoV is another in a family of coronaviruses that typically cause mild to moderate pneumonia, which can nonetheless be deadly, especially in patients with weak or compromised immune systems.