Coronavirus death toll rises to 41 after China reports 15 more fatalities

In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control is monitoring dozens of potential cases.

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By Alicia Victoria Lozano, Jareen Imam and Ali Gostanian

The death toll from coronavirus rose to 41 as 15 more people in China died from the virus that causes respiratory infection in humans if untreated.

Chinese health officials confirmed the tally Saturday. Nearly 200 new cases of pneumonia with coronavirus infection were also detected in Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak. China widened travel restrictions to the province as the death toll continued to climb.

Transportation was shut down Friday in Wuhan and least 13 surrounding cities in Hubei province, with a combined population of more than 33 million people, according to a report in the state-run Global Times newspaper. At least three cities were on total lockdown as of Friday evening.

Those on lockdown include Americans like Diana Adama, who has lived in China for 15 years but recently moved to Wuhan. She said the situation there is dire.

“The worst thing right now is that we don’t have any information," said Adama, who is in her 50s and works in education. "There are people volunteering to take doctors and nurses to the hospitals.”

She said in a phone interview with NBC News that the city is tightly locked down with no stores open and food in short supply.

“In my refrigerator, I have some eggs, some cheese, which is very rare here, actually, and oatmeal. But not much food, no vegetables and fruits,” she said. “I have worked at two medical universities, and I don’t think the doctors are prepared here."

Adama has been using Twitter to plead for help and supplies for her community. “We need respirator masks. We need medical supplies. I want to give the respirators to the local hospitals here. I’ve lived here for 15 years and this is my home,” Adama said, crying.

Wuhan resident Scott Allis, 31, has lived in the city since 2015. The English test preparation teacher said the usually busy city streets are empty.

“You can see in the videos that I’ve just posted on my Facebook that the streets are empty” Allis said. “No one is inside KFC. I normally don’t even go there before it’s usually packed with people, but now there’s just no one.”

Allis said the city is quickly running out of supplies for its 11 million residents.

“I have some masks. They’re not he highest quality but something is better than nothing,” he said.

Abigail Cooper, 23, an English teacher in Wuhan, is currently visiting family in her home state of Arkansas. She said she first started hearing about people getting sick in December.

“... we all just thought it was a random cold or flu," she said. "But then right before I left China, my students started telling me about a very serious pneumonia.”

While Cooper doesn’t personally know anyone who has contracted coronavirus, she said she's worried about the city's ability to contain it.

“Wuhan is definitely a developing city,” she said. “There [are] 11 million people in Wuhan, so when there’s an epidemic happening like this, there [are] just not enough resources health wise.”

Cooper, who bought a roundtrip ticket before leaving China earlier this month, said she is worried about whether she will be able to return to Wuhan.

“I’m just nervous [because] half my life is in China," she said. "I’m hoping that this is kind of a wake up call to China, but I think it’s [going to] take a while to overcome this.”

In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are monitoring at least 61 potential cases in 22 states. A second case in the U.S. was confirmed Friday, a 60-year-old woman who was hospitalized in Chicago after returning from a trip to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 13. She did not show symptoms during her travels, according to the CDC.

The first coronavirus was reported in the U.S. on Tuesday when a man in his 30s fell ill after returning to his home state of Washington on Jan. 15. He also traveled to Wuhan but did not visit the seafood market where the outbreak was said to have started, according to the CDC. He did not have symptoms when he landed in the U.S. but read about the virus. He went to the hospital when symptoms did start to emerge, officials said.

That patient remained in the hospital Friday "out of an abundance of caution," health officials said, and they are keeping a close watch on 43 people who came into contact with the Washington patient. The 43 have not been quarantined but were asked to watch for symptoms and take their temperatures daily.

A second U.S. case was confirmed Friday when a 60-year-old woman was hospitalized in Chicago after returning from a trip to Wuhan, China, on Jan. 13. She did not show symptoms during her travels, according to the CDC.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said earlier in the week that the risk to the American public was low. Severe cases have been limited to older adults or those with existing health problems.

Still, health officials in the U.S. are taking precautions to stop the virus from spreading, including screening airline passengers who arrive from China.

Sasha Urban and Janine Phakdeetham contributed.