Too early to determine severity of coronavirus – WHO

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 21)— Asian countries— including the Philippines— have been on high alert following the reported outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the region, but local health officials said it’s still too early to determine the gravity of the mysterious illness.

World Health Organization (WHO) Philippines Representative Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said that out of the four casualties linked to the respiratory virus, three cases had displayed preexisting medical conditions.

“Of the four people we have confirmed, three of them have other severe, preexisting medical conditions that could have contributed to that outcome and so actually it is too early now to say that is a severe infection that causes death,” Abeyasinghe said in a media briefing by Philippine health officials on Tuesday.

“We are in the early stages of trying to understand how severe this infection is and how many deaths is it likely to cause,” he added.

The coronaviruses, believed to be a cousin of the SARS virus, are a large group of viruses common among animals, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Among its symptoms include runny nose, cough, sore throat, headache, and fever.

At greatest risk of contracting the virus are children and the elderly, particularly those with weak immune systems. In some cases, the virus can cause other respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis and pneumonia.

READ: Coronavirus explained: What you need to know

More than 200 people in China have been infected by the virus since December, CNN reported. It has since been transported to nearby countries Thailand, Japan, and South Korea. Chinese health officials also confirmed that the virus can be transmitted between humans.

Philippines health officials, on the other hand, assured they are in close coordination with Chinese authorities regarding information dissemination on the matter.

“As soon as we have access to such access to information that is reliable and verified we will share that not only with the Philippines but with other member states also,” Abeyasinghe said.

The Health Department earlier said it is also investigating the case of a five-year-old boy from Wuhan, China—staying in Cebu— who tested positive for a still unidentified strain of coronavirus