Iran reports 2 novel coronavirus deaths, the country's 1st cases

There have been five additional deaths from COVID-19 outside China.

February 19, 2020, 2:31 PM

Iranian authorities said that two patients diagnosed with novel coronavirus in the country are now dead, Fars News Agency, the nation's state-run news organization, reported Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, health officials said two cases of the virus, known officially as COVID-19, had been detected in the central province of Qom.

The World Health Organization has not yet confirmed the two Iranian coronavirus deaths, but should they be confirmed, it would raise the death toll outside of China to seven.

PHOTO:An Iranian woman wearing a mask walks next to a wall painting of Iranian national flag in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 12, 2020.
An Iranian woman wearing a mask walks next to a wall painting of Iranian national flag in Tehran, Iran, Feb. 12, 2020. According to the Ministry of Health, two people diagnosed with coronavirus died in the city of Qom, central Iran.
Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA via Shutterstock

The news out of Iran comes as coronavirus deaths in China have topped 2,000. More than 75,000 people around the world have contracted the virus, with at least 74,185 of those cases in China.

In Japan, 500 passengers were allowed to disembark from the Diamond Princess cruise ship on Wednesday, which has been under quarantine since early February. The ship, docked off Japan's coast, became the site of the largest infection center outside of China after more than 620 people tested positive for the virus.

There are still as many as 2,000 people aboard the ship, and authorities said they anticipate it taking several more days before those remaining can be offloaded.

While the International Olympic Committee has not indicated that the Tokyo Games, scheduled to start in late July, will be disrupted by the ongoing outbreak, a former WHO adviser who worked on the SARS outbreak sowed seeds of doubt about the world's preparedness for such a mass gathering.

"We need to find the best way to have a safe Olympics," Japanese virologist Dr. Hitoshi Oshitani told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, according to The Associated Press.

"Right now we don't have an effective strategy," he added. "But by the end of July, we may be in a different situation."

PHOTO: A bus arrives near the cruise ship Diamond Princess, where dozens of passengers were tested positive for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, February 16, 2020.
A bus arrives near the cruise ship Diamond Princess, where dozens of passengers were tested positive for coronavirus, at Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, south of Tokyo, Japan, February 16, 2020.
Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters
PHOTO: This photo taken on February 18, 2020 shows Medical personnel walk among patients with mild symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus at night in the temporary Fangcai Hospital set up in a sports stadium in Wuhan, China.
This photo taken on February 18, 2020 shows Medical personnel walk among patients with mild symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus at night in the temporary Fangcai Hospital set up in a sports stadium in Wuhan, China.
Str/AFP via Getty Images

Other sporting events have been canceled or scaled back in recent weeks. Shanghai's Formula One race, originally scheduled for April, was called off last week.

On Monday, Tokyo officials announced that the city would limit its marathon in March to elite runners and wheelchair participants. The event originally was supposed to include more than 38,000 participants.

PHOTO: Buses carrying Australian passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Feb. 19, 2020.
Buses carrying Australian passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship leave a port in Yokohama, near Tokyo, Feb. 19, 2020. About 500 passengers left the ship at the end of a much-criticized two-week quarantine aboard the vessel, which failed to stop the spread of the new virus among passengers and crew.
Eugene Hoshiko/AP

The virus, which is in the same family as SARS, MERS and the common cold, causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, which can range from a slight cough to fever and difficult breathing, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is no approved treatment for COVID-19 yet, nor a vaccine to protect against the virus. Scientists are still working to determine exactly how infectious and severe it is.

ABC News' Christine Theodorou and Joseph Simonetti contributed to this report.

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