Coronavirus warning: COVID-19 outbreak ‘just the tip of the iceberg’ as diagnoses spike

Coronavirus cases have continued to rocket over the past two weeks, expanding well outside the Wuhan epicentre in China into Europe – with dozens of towns in Italy now in lockdown as the number of people diagnosed near 300. US President Donald Trump insisted the coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic in the US, where 53 people have tested positive since January, is “very much under control” but Pfizer board member Dr Scott Gottlieb warned the outbreak so far is “the tip of the iceberg.” Speaking to CNBC, Dr Gottlieb said: “It still has a way to go, it’s still going to burn its way across other countries and we’re probably just detecting a small fraction of what is going on in Italy, Iran, South Korea.

“Japan seems to have more spread than what is apparent right now. What we’re seeing is the tip of the iceberg.”

Dr Gottlieb, a former member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warned the US is lacking in “diagnostic capability” and the calculation of the real number of people affected by the coronavirus in the country remains reliant on one to two-weeks old data.

He continued: “We could have spread here in the United States and not be detecting it at this point.

“What we’re depending on right now is looking at epidemiological data, so we’re looking at the incidence of flu, at people who come into hospital saying they have the flu or doctors who think they have the flu but they don’t test positive for the flu.

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“We’re also looking at the data of physicians ordering diagnostic tests for respiratory illnesses. And we’re looking at the rate of those tests are being ordered and indeterminate results where they don’t get back a positive result for anything.

“That data will say some respiratory pathogens must be circulating among the population. The problem with that data is it’s one to two-weeks lagging and you probably need thousands of cases to detect the signal.”

The physician added: “If you’ve got dozens or maybe hundreds of cases in a city, you might not detect the signal that way.”

Based on current evidence, the Government states novel coronavirus (COVID-19) presents itself with flu-like symptoms, including fever with a temperature reading above 38 degrees.

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Another symptom of the virus is a cough, as well as shortness of breath and difficulty breathing. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also noted that in more severe cases of infection, pneumonia and kidney failure may develop.

Cases of COVID-80 surpassed 60,000 in mainland China and South Korean increases security health measure after the number of patients infected reached 1,261. 

Diagnoses have also steadily increased across Japan, where cases have reached 861 at the time of writing and have raised concerns about the ability of the Japanese Government to tackle the epidemic in time for the Summer Olympics scheduled for later this year.

Italy officials were forced to put a large area of the Lombardy and Veneto regions in lockdown after the hotbed of the coronavirus was located in the cities of Codogno, 60km southeast of Milan, and Vô Euganeo, 50km southwest of Venice.


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The Government on Tuesday updated its travel advice to say anyone travelling back from the areas in Italy affected by coronavirus should remain at home, not come into contact with other people and to call NHS 111 – even if they are not displaying symptoms.

Authorities in Italy are fighting to contain the biggest outbreak of coronavirus in Europe so far, which has forced Austria to assemble a special Taskforce to consider border controls.

Cardinal Heenan Catholic High School in West Derby has sent home a number of pupils and staff because of coronavirus fears.

Some of the students and teachers spent the half-term break skiing in Italy but did not visit any of the quarantined Italian towns.

Although all those taking part in the holiday were medically screened coming to and from Milan airport, the school has sent the pupils and staff home as a precautionary measure.

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