American dies of virus in China; death toll rises to 811, surpassing SARS

BEIJING (AP) - Mainland China has reported the virus death toll has risen to 811, surpassing SARS fatalities in the 2002-2003 outbreak.

China’s National Health Commission on Sunday says the total cases of the new virus have increased to to 37,198.

The outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, killed 774 people and infected more than 8,000 worldwide.

Like the new virus, it also originated in China.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing says a 60-year-old American citizen diagnosed with the new virus died in Wuhan, apparently the first American fatality of the outbreak.

The embassy said in a brief statement Saturday that the American was confirmed to have been infected by the coronavirus and died at a hospital in Wuhan. It said it would have no further comment out of respect for the family’s privacy.

The ruling Communist Party faces anger and recriminations from the public over the death of a doctor who was threatened by police after trying to sound the alarm about the disease over a month ago.

Chinese leaders want to make sure food flows to crowded cities despite controls to fight the viral outbreak and to quell fears of possible shortages and price spikes.

Already panic buying has ensued after most access to Wuhan was cut off Jan. 23. Quarantines and other travel curbs have spread to cover cities with a total of 60 million people.

The ruling Communist Party has ordered authorities to ensure the supply of daily necessities including vegetables, meat, eggs, milk and grain.

Officials of city governments are visiting farming areas to make sure supplies resume quickly after the extended Lunar New Year holiday.

Three more cruise ship passengers were diagnosed with the virus in Japan for a total of 64.

France has confirmed five additional cases of the new virus spreading from China, including one child.

The announcement Saturday by Health Minister Agnes Buzyn brings the total number of people confirmed with the virus in France to 11.

The new cases were identified in the Alpine resort town of Contamines-Montjoie near Mont Blanc. Buzyn said they appear linked to a British person who stayed there in late January and was later confirmed to have the virus after returning to Britain.

French authorities are working with international partners to trace everyone who was in close contact with the British person and with the newly infected people in France.

The French government has brought hundreds of people from European and African countries back from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Those who stayed in France are in quarantine.

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