February 13 coronavirus news

By Helen Regan, Adam Renton, Mike Hayes, Meg Wagner and Jack Guy, CNN

Updated 9:43 PM ET, Thu February 13, 2020
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2:14 p.m. ET, February 13, 2020

Novel coronavirus can be spread by people who aren’t exhibiting symptoms, CDC director says

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Asymptomatic transmission of the novel coronavirus is possible, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told CNN.

In other words, Redfield said that an infected person not showing symptoms could still transmit the virus to someone else based on information from his colleagues in China.

“There’s been good communication with our colleagues to confirm asymptomatic infection, to confirm asymptomatic transmission, to be able to get a better handle on the clinical spectrum of illness in China. What we don’t know though is how much of the asymptomatic cases are driving transmission,” he told CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview on Thursday. 

Redfield continued: “What I’ve learned in the last two weeks is that the spectrum of this illness is much broader than was originally presented. There’s much more asymptomatic illness. A number of the confirmed cases that we confirmed actually just presented with a little sore throat.”

 

1:58 p.m. ET, February 13, 2020

US health expert expects coronavirus to be around "beyond this season, beyond this year"

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield speaks during a press conference on Friday, February 7, in Washington, DC.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield speaks during a press conference on Friday, February 7, in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus may impact the world for some time to come, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield told CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in an interview today.

“This virus is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission,” Redfield said. “You can start to think of it in the sense like seasonal flu.”

While more research is needed to fully understand the virus, Redfield said that the CDC has focused on surveillance to track cases and containment to slow down the possible progression of the virus in the United States.

“I do think that eventually we are going to be in more of a mitigation phase in dealing with this virus but that’s not to underestimate the importance of the containment phase that we’re in right now,” Redfield said. 

“The containment phase is really to give us more time. This virus will become a community virus at some point in time, this year or next year,” Redfield said. “We don’t have any evidence that this coronavirus is really embedded in the community at this time, but with that said, we want to intensify our surveillance so that we’re basing those conclusions based on data.”

1:59 p.m. ET, February 13, 2020

The way China counts coronavirus cases does not apply to the rest of the world, health officials say

From CNN Jacqueline Howard

World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program head Michael Ryan attends a combined news conference following a two-day international conference on COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine research and a meeting to decide whether Ebola in DR Congo still constitutes health emergency of international concern on Wednesday, January 12, in Geneva.
World Health Organization (WHO) Health Emergencies Program head Michael Ryan attends a combined news conference following a two-day international conference on COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine research and a meeting to decide whether Ebola in DR Congo still constitutes health emergency of international concern on Wednesday, January 12, in Geneva. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

The changes made to the way China defines and counts coronavirus cases in Hubei province do not apply to cases being tracked in the rest of the world, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, said during a press conference today. 

"In the rest of China and the rest of the world, laboratory confirmation for reporting is still required and WHO will continue to track both laboratory and clinically confirmed cases in Hubei province,” Ryan said.

What this is about: Chinese officials recently changed their tally of cases in Hubei to include “clinically diagnosed cases” in addition to those confirmed by a laboratory test. 

Due to that change in case definition, numbers of cases being reported out of China have fluctuated dramatically, rising up to almost 60,000 yesterday.

The change in the counting system has partially caused a spike in the number of cases.

Here's how Ryan explained the change:

“In other words, in Hubei province only, a trained medical professional can now classify a suspected case of COVID-19 as a clinically confirmed case on the basis of chest imaging, rather than having to have a laboratory confirmation,” he said. "This allows clinicians to move and report cases more quickly, without having to wait for lab confirmation, assuring that people get to clinical care more quickly and also allows public health responses in terms of contact tracing and other important public health measures to be initiated.”
1:07 p.m. ET, February 13, 2020

A Taiwanese student says her London Airbnb canceled on her over coronavirus fears. She hasn't been to China in years.

From CNN's Lauren Kent

Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng
Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng

A Taiwanese PhD student said she feels discriminated against after London Airbnb hosts canceled her booking at the last minute, citing fears about coronavirus. 

Yale University student Louise Hsin-Yuan Peng, who traveled from Taiwan to London earlier this month to conduct research for three months, received a cancellation message from the hosts of her long-term booking that said they were concerned about the virus outbreak and had to “err on the side of caution.”

She received the cancellation message when she was about to arrive, after already messaging the hosts when she landed at the airport in London and taking a train to the city center.

“I was really shocked,” Hsin-Yuan told CNN. “I certainly think it was xenophobic because you’re just scared of me without knowing anything about me.”

The 31-year-old student has not traveled near virus-affected areas and has not been to mainland China in years.

“I understand that people are probably freaking out because of the outbreak," she said. "But I feel that they should have asked about my travel history and what I do or if I had interactions with people coming from the affected area.” 

There have been 18 cases of novel coronavirus diagnosed in Taiwan and eight cases in the UK as of this morning.  

Hsin-Yuan said that following the last-minute cancellation, she reached out to a friend who let her sleep on the floor that night. She then paid for a hotel for two nights while she tried to find long-term accommodation and contacted other friends who might host her. 

She told CNN she called Airbnb’s customer service to report possible discrimination, and after speaking with multiple representatives from the company, Airbnb offered to reimburse her for the cancellation, the hotel nights and an Uber ride. She said she only asked for the bare minimum, but Airbnb also offered her a $500 voucher for future stays.  

"We take cancellation issues seriously and rigorously enforce a non discrimination policy," an Airbnb spokesperson said.

Airbnb said in this case, it “educated the host” on the proper cancellation policies regarding coronavirus. That policy makes no mention of Taiwan but says extenuating circumstances apply for reservations with guests traveling from mainland China.

3:08 p.m. ET, February 13, 2020

Here are the symptoms of coronavirus

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. CDC

Coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are common among animals.

In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Here's what else we know about the viruses:

  • The symptoms: The viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illness, similar to a common cold. Coronavirus symptoms include a runny nose, cough, sore throat, possibly a headache and maybe a fever, which can last for a couple of days. For those with a weakened immune system, the elderly and the very young, there's a chance the virus could cause a lower, and much more serious, respiratory tract illness like a pneumonia or bronchitis.
  • How it spreads: When it comes to human-to-human transmission of the viruses, often it happens when someone comes into contact with an infected person's secretions, such as droplets in a cough. Depending on how virulent the virus is, a cough, sneeze or handshake could cause exposure. The virus can also be transmitted by touching something an infected person has touched and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Caregivers can sometimes be exposed by handling a patient's waste, according to the CDC.
12:31 p.m. ET, February 13, 2020

More coronavirus cases could be identified at Texas Air Force base, health officials say

Eric Gay/AP
Eric Gay/AP

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a case of novel coronavirus at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

And "there may be additional cases" identified during the quarantine period, CDC spokeswoman Captain Jennifer McQuiston said at a news conference today.

The patient was a "solo traveler" from China. The individual has been quarantined "since arriving at Lackland Air Force Base from the Wuhan Province in China and remains in isolation at a local hospital, San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. 

Officials are now investigating the patient's movements while quarantined and who he or she might have interacted with, McQuiston said. 

"We are right in the middle of that incubation period so it is not surprising" that the individual developed symptoms, McQuiston said. 

"For the most part the people in quarantine are not doing much associating with each other," McQuiston said. 

There is low risk to the local community, officials said. 

No information about the patient or the hospital will be made available at this time, Nirenberg said.

11:39 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020

Europe Union could consider border closings if coronavirus escalates

From CNN's James Frater

John Thys/AFP/Getty Images
John Thys/AFP/Getty Images

A Croatian health official said closing borders across the European Union is an option if the coronavirus outbreak escalates — but global officials say that step is not necessary yet.

Vili Beroš, the Croatian Minister of Health, spoke at a news conference following a meeting of EU health ministers.

“The situation needs to be monitored on an hourly basis. Of course, if epidemiologically it escalates, we shall take other actions, if that means the closing of borders, we shall discuss it in line with national legislation," Beroš said.

Remember: The World Health Organization has not said that kind of restriction is needed right now.

Here's how Stella Kyriakidou, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, put it:

“The WHO has been very clear that there is no need at the moment for restrictions on travel and trade from affected countries. And I trust that Member States would adhere to this. Of course, such decisions will always be Member State competence and Member State decisions.”
11:18 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020

The CDC is remaking coronavirus test kits. Here's what that means.

From CNN's Ben Tinker

US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Late yesterday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it would remake part of the novel coronavirus test kit that it has distributed to states.

The hope was that states could test samples more quickly than sending them to the CDC lab in Atlanta – but some of the kits that were distributed had inconclusive results. 

What this means: Testing results may be delayed.

Speeding up the testing process has been a priority for the CDC, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. 

“During a response like this we know things may not go as smoothly as we would like,” Messonnier said during a press conference yesterday. “We have multiple levels of quality control to detect issues just like this one. We’re looking into all of these issues to understand what went wrong, and to prevent these same things from happening in the future.”  

Texas, Michigan and Arizona are among the states that are awaiting the new materials for the novel coronavirus testing kit, state health officials told CNN.

10:55 a.m. ET, February 13, 2020

There's a big jump in coronavirus cases in China today — here's why

From CNN's Ben Tinker

Yesterday, China reported far fewer cases of the novel coronavirus than it did the day before, signaling that the spread of the virus could be slowing.

But the numbers are back up today: China has announced a major jump in both new deaths and new cases. 

There are many reasons we’re seeing this phenomenon, including variances in the incubation period and more people seeking treatment.

But one of the top reasons for the variation in numbers is the constantly changing definitions of what constitutes a case in China: Is it just when someone has a lab-confirmed test? Is it when they exhibit symptoms indicative of infection? Should someone who is asymptotic be counted?

Today's spike is partly due to a broader definition of what constitutes a confirmed case, to include people diagnosed on the basis of their symptoms rather than testing positive.

Keep in mind: This is normal. 

“It’s normal during the course of an outbreak to adapt the case definition,” Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of the World Health Organization's Infectious Hazards Management Department, said during a news conference yesterday.