As death toll hits 170, countries scramble to respond

White House considers ban on China flights amid coronavirus outbreak

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As the death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 170, numerous countries, airlines and travel groups began scrambling to cut service to China, extract citizens or screen individuals who had been there recently in a desperate effort to contain the contagious illness.

The new virus, centered in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, another type of coronavirus.

The latest figures released by China on Thursday covered the past 24 hours and represented an increase of 38 deaths and 1,737 cases for a total of 7,711. Of the new deaths, 37 were in Hubei province, where Wuhan is situated, and one was in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, including buses, subways, trains and the international airport. 

The World Health Organization reconvened experts on Thursday in Geneva to assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency. 

Everything you need to know about the virus: Your questions answered here

The WHO emergencies chief, Michael Ryan, upon returning from Beijing, said China was taking “extraordinary measures in the face of an extraordinary challenge” posed by the outbreak.

Passengers wear masks to protect against the spread of the coronavirus as they arrive on a flight from Asia at Los Angeles International Airport on Jan. 29, 2020.

He estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2% but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate, and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed.

In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10% of people it infected. The new virus is from the coronavirus family, which includes those that can cause the common cold as well as more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS.

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