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Coronavirus cases top 24K worldwide

An outbreak of a new form of coronavirus that originated in China has now sickened more than 24,500 people around the world, with nearly 500 deaths from the disease so far, according to China’s health ministry.

In a statement obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday, officials confirmed that the number infected with the virus has risen to 24,324 in China alone, with 490 deaths reported in the country so far. Just two deaths have been reported outside of China .

The new numbers come days after China announced that it would accept a delegation, including U.S. experts, from the World Health Organization (WHO), which has urged quick action to control the spread of the disease. The virus is believed to have originated in China’s Wuhan province at a now-shuttered seafood market.

Eleven cases of the disease have been reported in the U.S. so far, and officials are screening of travelers coming from China at major U.S. airports.

Several U.S. airlines have also canceled service to China amid the outbreak, which struck the country as many residents were celebrating the Lunar New Year holiday. Officials in Beijing have decried the airlines’ decisions.

“All it has done could only create and spread fear, which is a bad example,” an official with China’s foreign ministry said.

“It is precisely developed countries like the United States with strong epidemic prevention capabilities and facilities that have taken the lead in imposing excessive restrictions contrary to WHO recommendations,” the spokesperson added.

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