The coronavirus death toll has surpassed that of the SARS epidemic, with 81 new fatalities confirmed on Sunday.
The coronavirus death toll has surpassed that of the SARS epidemic, with 81 new fatalities confirmed on Sunday.

Virus closing in on grim death toll

The number of deaths from China's new coronavirus epidemic jumped to 803 on Sunday after the hard-hit Hubei province reported 81 new fatalities.

The toll is now higher than the global number of deaths caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus, which killed 774 people in 2002-2003.

In the Hubei province alone, the epicentre of the latest outbreak, the death toll now is put at 780.

All but one of the overall total of 803 deaths have so far been in mainland China and Hong Kong.

In its daily update, Hubei's health commission also confirmed another 2,147 new cases in the central province, where the outbreak emerged in December.

There are now more than 36,690 confirmed cases across China.

The World Health Organisation said Saturday that the number of cases being reported daily in China is "stabilising" - but cautioned that it was too early to say if the virus has peaked.

The updated death toll comes as scientists on Friday found that diarrhoea may be a secondary path of transmission for the disease.

The primary path is believed to be virus-laden droplets from an infected person's cough, though researchers in early cases have said they focused heavily on patients with respiratory symptoms and may have overlooked those linked to the digestive tract.

The new virus is believed to have emerged last year in a market that sells wild animals in Hubei's capital Wuhan, the city at the centre of the outbreak, before spreading across the country.

On Thursday, a 60-year-old US citizen - the first confirmed non-Chinese victim of the illness - died in Wuhan's Jinyintan Hospital.

A Japanese man in his 60s with a suspected coronavirus infection also died in hospital in Wuhan, the Japanese foreign ministry said.

The only confirmed fatalities outside the mainland are a Chinese man in the Philippines and a 39-year-old man in Hong Kong.

 

- With AFP


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