WORLD HEALTH Organization officials are seeking more information on the four deaths and 18 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iran.
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“This is very concerning,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, said at a press conference Friday. He called the situation “serious.”
“We’re getting information, but we have to engage them even more,” Tedros said.
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WUHAN, CHINA – JANUARY 31: (CHINA OUT) A man wears a protective mask as he rides a bicycle across the Yangtze River Bridge on January 31, 2020 in Wuhan, China. World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on January 30 that the novel coronavirus outbreak has become a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). (Photo by Stringer/Getty Images)
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The cases are linked with the Iranian city of Qom, where health officials believe workers from China could have traveled with the virus.
Iran officials said the virus has spread to several other cities within the country, including Tehran, Babol, Arak, Isfahan and Rasht. It might exist in every city across the county, one health official said.
The neighboring country of Iraq has not reported any cases of the coronavirus yet, but Lebanon confirmed a 45-year-old woman who recently returned from the city of Qom has the virus.
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The coronavirus has killed at least 2,200 people and infected over 76,000 more.
The window of opportunity to control the virus is narrowing, Tedros said. Countries need to be doing all they can to prevent its spread, “or it could be messy.”
“We’re still in a phase where containment is possible, with a narrowing window of opportunity,” he said.
The number of cases outside of China, which stands at more than 1,000, is still relatively small, according to Tedros. However, he said he is concerned that there is no clear epidemiological link – like travel history to China or contact with a confirmed case – for several of the reported infections.
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Health officials are still trying to understand the transmissibility of the virus, while confined areas like cruise ships and prisons have seen clusters of cases.
China on Friday reported more than 500 cases across prisons for the first time.