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Feb. 27, 2020, 3:24 p.m. EST

As fears of a pandemic grow, more new cases of coronavirus are confirmed outside of China for the first time: WHO

‘We should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts,’ said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO

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By Quentin Fottrell, MarketWatch


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On Thursday, China’s National Health Commission said there were 433 new confirmed cases of coronavirus and 29 more deaths as of Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases in that country to 78,497, and the total number of deaths there to 2,744.

There were more new confirmed cases of the coronavirus reported outside of China for the first time, the head of the World Health Organization said.

“Yesterday, the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the WHO, according to a transcript of a speech to diplomats in Geneva released late Wednesday. But he called for people to refrain from using the word “pandemic.” An “epidemic” is when a disease spreads through one or several communities; a pandemic occurs when a disease spreads throughout the world.

“The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning,” he said, according to a prepared statement of his speech. “There are now cases linked to Iran in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait and Oman,” Tedros added. “There are now cases linked to Italy in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain and Switzerland.” WHO previously declared a public health emergency of international concern, its highest level of alarm.

There were 82,550 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and at least 2,810 deaths, and 33,252 people, primarily in China’s Hubei Province, have recovered, according to a tally published Thursday by the Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering’s Centers for Systems Science and Engineering. A woman in California tested positive, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the U.S. to 60. She had not traveled to an affected country or likely been in contact with another confirmed case.

Also see: Coronavirus fatality rates vary wildly depending on age, gender and medical history — some patients fare much worse than others

“The increase in cases outside China has prompted some media and politicians to push for a pandemic to be declared,” Tedros said. “We should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts,” he added. “Using the word pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems.”

Denmark and Estonia also confirmed their first cases of the novel coronavirus. Meanwhile, Brazil confirmed its first case of coronavirus this week. As of Thursday, Iran now has 245 cases, plus 26 deaths, and 49 people have recovered; Italy has 528 cases, 14 deaths and 40 people have recovered; South Korea reported 505 new cases, bringing that country’s total number of cases to 1,766, plus 13 deaths, and 22 people have recovered.

The outbreak has spread rapidly in recent weeks. Clusters in Iran and Italy, and its spread to over 40 countries have rattled markets. It’s believed to have originated at a food market in Wuhan. People may not know they’re carrying the virus. Symptoms of common human coronaviruses include a runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and a general feeling of being unwell, according to the CDC . Symptoms of the new coronavirus can include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Quentin Fottrell is MarketWatch's personal-finance editor and The Moneyist columnist for MarketWatch. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo.

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