Coronavirus: 15th Case of Coronavirus in U.S; China reporting methods under scrutiny

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Confirmed coronavirus cases boomed this week as China altered its method for counting amid concerns over its handling of the crisis.

Thursday, U.S. health officials confirmed a 15th U.S. case.

The death toll from the coronavirus that surfaced in China late last year rose to 1,370 on Thursday. All but three of the deaths have been in mainland China.

China previously counted cases only when a person tested positive for the virus. Chest imaging and other medical diagnoses are now included.

"While this may be a sensitive technique to look for an infection with the new coronavirus, it may also identify patients with other, similar viral illnesses, including the flu, artificially inflating the actual number of cases," said Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Glatter said the coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, is proving difficult to contain.

"The lack of reliable information combined with a highly transmissible virus is problematic, to say the very least," Glatter said. "Relying on health care providers to report cases – using clinical suspicion along with CT scans with certain patterns of lung inflammation – as 'positive' is not an ideal approach."

Melissa Nolan, a physician and professor of epidemiology at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health, told USA TODAY that China's effort to include people with clinical characteristics of disease without a confirmed diagnosis can help expedite public health measures by ensuring all potentially infectious people are isolated.

Nolan agreed with Glatter that "there is a likely chance that a portion of those with clinical disease are caused by other etiologies, such as influenza, tuberculosis."

U.S. officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered to send experts to China to help with that government's response, but those offers have been rebuffed, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said.

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