The vast majority of cases were confined to mainland China until this weekend, when Italy, South Korea and Iran all suddenly announced a concerning number of cases

Cases of the new coronavirus soared on Feb. 22 after Italy, South Korea and Iran reported an alarming number of infected citizens, totaling in the hundreds.

Up until the weekend, the vast majority of new coronavirus (officially termed COVID-19) cases had occurred in mainland China, spreading outward from Hubei province, the epicenter of the disease. As of Feb. 23, China has reported over 77,000 cases and 2,445 deaths.

One week earlier, Italy had just 3 cases of coronavirus. By Feb. 24, that number jumped to 219, with five deaths. The majority of cases are in the Lombardy region, which includes Milan. Italian officials have locked down 50,000 people in 10 towns to contain the disease’s spread.

In South Korea, the number of cases suddenly went up to 833, with 231 of those cases coming in the last 24 hours. Most are in Daegu, a city in the southeastern part of the country, and in members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. Seven people have died.

Northern Italy Locks Down To Try Prevent The Spread Of Coronavirus
Tourists wear face masks in Milan
| Credit: Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty

In Iran, their reported coronavirus cases only slightly increased, in comparison, but their death toll rose sharply. According to the country’s health minister, 61 people have tested positive for coronavirus but at least 12 have died. Experts believe, according to The New York Times, that Iran likely has far more than the reported number of cases as the illness is not quite that deadly — about one in 50 are dying from the disease.

As the cases spiked dramatically in Europe and Asia, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that governments are not prepared to contain a worldwide outbreak.

“We have all got to look at our systems, because none of them work fast enough,” said Dr. Bruce Aylward, a Canadian doctor and epidemiologist from WHO.

The U.S. currently has 35 confirmed cases of coronavirus, a total that rose after the state department evacuated passengers from the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had been docked in Yokohama, Japan, back to the U.S. against the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation.

Tourists in Venice wear face masks
| Credit: ANDREA PATTARO/AFP via Getty

“This new virus represents a tremendous public health threat,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said in a press briefing on Friday.

However, she said the risk to the average American is still “low,” with no coronavirus cases originating in isolated incidents the U.S. All cases have either occurred in people who recently traveled to China — which was the case for 11 of the patients — or their close contacts, in two incidences. The other 22 cases came from people who were extradited from China by the state department, either in one of the three flights of Americans who were living in China at the time of the outbreak or in the people on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

No U.S.-based Americans have died of coronavirus, but a 60-year-old living in Wuhan, China, died from the disease in the city in early February. Several of the early U.S. coronavirus patients have recovered and left their hospitals.