Eleven Americans are among the dozens of people aboard a cruise ship moored in Japan who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials said.
Since arriving at the Japanese port of Yokohama on Monday, the Diamond Princess has been quarantined at sea while all passengers and crew undergo health screenings. At least 61 people have tested positive for the newly identified coronavirus. The patients, who include elderly people and foreign nationals, were taken ashore to a hospital in the coastal prefecture of Kanagawa, according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
A spokesperson for Princess Cruises, which operates the ship, told ABC News that those infected include 28 Japanese nationals, 11 Americans, seven Australians, seven Canadians, three people from Hong Kong, one person from Argentina, one from the Philippines, one from Taiwan, one from the United Kingdom and one person from New Zealand.
The Japanese government has mandated the Diamond Princess and all those still on board to remain under quarantine at sea until Feb. 19.
“The Japanese government is also providing our ship and team members additional manpower support,” a spokesperson for Princess Cruises said in a statement Thursday night. “During the remainder of the time onboard, guests will continue to be provided complimentary internet and telephone service to stay in contact with their family and loved ones. In addition, we have added additional live TV channels and a large selection of in-room movies available in multiple languages. The cruise activities staff is packaging games, puzzles and trivia and delivering them to guest staterooms.”
There are 2,666 guests and 1,045 crew members aboard the Diamond Princess. Approximately half are from Japan, with more than 400 passengers from the United States, according to the cruise line spokesperson.
The first cases of the new coronavirus were detected back in December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Since then, 28,060 people in China have been infected with the disease and 564 of them have died. An additional 216 people in two dozen other countries and territories have also been infected, and one patient in the Philippines has died, according to the latest data from World Health Organization, the global health arm of the United Nations.
The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global health emergency.
Two newborns in China are believed to be the youngest to contract the novel coronavirus. The infants, one just 30 hours old, tested positive for the newly discovered virus on Wednesday at a children’s hospital in Wuhan, the outbreak’s epicenter, according to the state-owned China Daily newspaper.
Both babies were reported in stable condition, but now concerns have been raised over whether mother-to-fetus transmissions are possible.
Meanwhile, a Chinese doctor who was reprimanded by authorities for sounding an early warning about the outbreak in Wuhan at the end of December died Friday after falling ill with the disease. The Wuhan Central Hospital said on its social media account that Dr. Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, was “unfortunately infected during the fight against the pneumonia epidemic of the new coronavirus infection.”
“We deeply regret and mourn this,” the hospital added.
The WHO took to Twitter in light of the doctor’s death, saying, “We all need to celebrate work that he did.”
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on Thursday, WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there are still many unknowns about the virus. Scientists are working to find the original source of the outbreak, and they still don’t fully understand how the virus is transmitted nor its severity.
“To put it bluntly: we’re shadowboxing,” Ghebreyesus told reporters. “We need to bring this virus out into the light so we can attack it properly.”
The new coronavirus causes symptoms similar to pneumonia — sometimes mild, such as a slight cough, to more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. There is no vaccine yet for the virus, nor any known effective therapeutics.
In the United States, 12 confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported in Wisconsin, California, Washington, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shipped newly approved coronavirus tests to labs across the country so states can begin their own diagnostic testing instead of shipping all samples to CDC headquarters in Atlanta.
The outbreak has caused several major U.S. airlines to suspend all flights to China, and American companies and government agencies have evacuated staff from the country. The U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 travel advisory for China on Jan. 30, warning people to avoid all travel to the country.
The U.S. Department of State has identified about 1,000 Americans in China’s Hubei Province, which includes Wuhan, who have requested help in evacuating, according to Capt. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of CDC’s Division of High Consequence Pathogens and Pathology.
In a series of tweets early Friday morning, U.S. President Donald Trump said he had a “long and very good” telephone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus,” Trump said. “He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days.”
“Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation,” Trump added in another tweet. “We are working closely with China to help!”
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