Novel coronavirus continues to spread on cruise ship quarantined at sea in Japan

Posted on: February 12th, 2020 by ABC News No Comments

Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images(LONDON) — Dozens more people aboard a cruise ship quarantined at sea in Japan have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials said.

By Wednesday, at least 174 people among the 3,711 guests and crew members on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship have tested positive for the disease since the cruise ship docked in the Japanese port of Yokohama on Feb. 3. One quarantine officer has also been infected, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

All those infected with the disease have been brought ashore for treatment, while the other passengers remain confined to their rooms on board until the quarantine period ends, the ministry said.

Some experts questioned whether the cruise ship quarantine was doing more harm than good.

“The issue with quarantine remains the lack of ability in a closed environment like this to maintain infection prevention measures on a ship,” said Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, director of global health at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, New York. “We are seeing numbers increase dramatically, which likely means that there is ongoing spread of the virus on these ships. That’s concerning, as its creating a second epicenter of the infection, in a Japanese port.”

A spokesperson for Princess Cruises, which operates the ship, confirmed the new cases of coronavirus.

“We are following guidance from the Japan Ministry of Health on plans for disembarkation protocols to provide medical care for these new cases,” the spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.

Approximately half of all people who were on board the Diamond Princess are from Japan, while more than 400 passengers are from the United States, according to the cruise line spokesperson.

On Tuesday, the cruise line spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that 23 Americans were among those infected. It’s unclear whether the new cases include any U.S. citizens.

Since the first cases of the newly discovered virus were detected back in December in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, China’s National Health Commission said Wednesday that it has recorded a total of 44,730 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,113 deaths.

There are at least 395 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 was in the Philippines, bringing the global death toll to 1,114.

There are 13 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. The CDC has shipped newly approved coronavirus tests to labs across the country so states can begin their own diagnostic testing instead of shipping all samples to the agency’s headquarters in Atlanta.

The CDC is also re-examining whether 14 days is an appropriate duration for future coronavirus quarantines, as scientists learn more about the virus and how infectious it may be before patients show symptoms.

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.

WHO director general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced Tuesday that the coronavirus is now called COVID-19. “Co” stands for coronavirus, “Vi” is for virus and “D” is for disease, he said.

The WHO convened in Geneva on Tuesday for a global research and innovation forum to identify the gaps in scientists’ knowledge about the disease and to accelerate the development of interventions to stem its spread.

“The bottom line is solidarity, solidarity, solidarity,” Tedros said during his opening remarks at the forum. “Publications, patents and profits are not what matters now. What matters most is stopping the outbreak and saving lives.”

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