Officials with the World Health Organization say initial mortality estimates for the novel coronavirus dubbed COVID-19 were far too low, and that the mortality rate is actually closer to 3.4%.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director general, said the novel coronavirus has proven to be more lethal than the seasonal flu, which kills thousands of Americans every year.
"While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains,COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity," Tedros said. "That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease."
The global tally for confirmed cases of COVID-19 is 92,943 as of Wednesday morning, as the death toll reached at least 3,160 deaths worldwide. Previous mortality estimates for COVID-19 by health officials had been at around 2%, but as more information has been shared by governments dealing with outbreaks around the world, health officials upped the mortality estimate for the novel coronavirus.
In the United States, nine deaths have been reported, all of which occurred in Washington state. Eight of the deaths were in King County, with another in the neighboring Snohomish County. In all, 31 cases have been confirmed in the state, health officials say.
"This is a very fluid, fast-moving situation as we aggressively respond to this outbreak," Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County Public Health, said in a statement.
The disease appears to take a particularly heavy toll on those patients who are 60 and older, or those who have compromised immune systems. Doctors say children appear to be less susceptible to the virus, and are mystified as to why. In all, there are 127 confirmed cases across at least 15 states as of early Wednesday morning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan proclaimed a civil emergency on Tuesday, allowing her administration to bypass certain regulations to increase spending, contracting and borrowing to help address the growing public health threat from the coronavirus.
"Because this is an evolving situation, we will continue to work in partnership with County and state officials to meet the immediate needs of our communities, especially vulnerable individuals and individuals experiencing homelessness," Durkan tweeted. "We know that our City will need additional resources and help from both our state and federal government. We are looking to our partners to increase the availability of testing in a way that does not overwhelm the health care system, but meets the growing need."
Officials at the WHO also took the time to warn consumers against hoarding or buying up face masks and gloves. The agency said that the shortage of crucial health care supplies like masks, respirators, gloves and other types of personal protection equipment used by medical professionals is putting lives at risk.
The agency said a 40% increase in production would be needed to meet the rising demand for the equipment.
“Without secure supply chains, the risk to health care workers around the world is real," Tedros said. "Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding."
In New York, a coronavirus patient's son, daughter, wife and neighbor who drove the patient to the hospital have all tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the total confirmed cases in New York to six.
Symptoms of the coronavirus include fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. If the disease is allowed to worse, it can lead to kidney failure, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome and death.
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