Photo Credit: US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) / Public Domain
COVID-19 Wuhan coronavirus testing kit

Health officials in Iran are starting to grapple with a rising number of citizens who are becoming ill with the COVID-19 Wuhan coronavirus.

A third victim may have died on Thursday, also in Qom, although officials have yet to make an official report to the World Health Organization (WHO). (see below)

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However, Iranian officials are being extremely cautious about releasing information, preferring to speak about those “suspected” of having the virus rather than confirm those diagnosed, up until the point they have actually expired from the illness, as did two elderly people in Qom. This echoes the initial behavior of officials in China, who were leery of panicking their population; the extreme caution, however, resulted in the opposite effect.

In Iran, two patients “suspected of having the virus” in the northern Iranian city of Babol were taken to the hospital on Thursday, according to Mostafa Javanian, a health official with the University of Medical Education in Babol. Javanian told IRNA on Thursday that both patients are being cared for in isolation under quarantine.

Two people in the country have already died from the illness in Qom province, 140 kilometers south of Tehran. Both victims were elderly and had problems with their immune systems.

Two Die of Coronavirus in Iran

Two Die of Coronavirus in Iran

Two more cases of the virus have been diagnosed in Qom as well, according to Mohammad-Mehdi Gooya, head of the management center for epidemic diseases of Iran’s Health Ministry.

Gooya also told IRNA on Thursday that five other suspected cases have been moved to Tehran for medical evaluations and observation.

A passenger in the Shoush Metro Station in Tehran who was identified early Thursday as suspected of having the virus was taken to the hospital “immediately,” Managing Director of Tehran Urban and Suburban Railway Farnoush Nobakht told IRNA.

The Health, Treatment and Medical Education Ministry’s Public Relations Department said there are three confirmed cases of the illness in Qom and Arak as well. All are receiving treatment.

The Chancellor of Arak Medical University, Mohammad Jamalian added Thursday that eight more patients are also suspected of having the virus.

In the past 24 hours, the Islamic Republic of Iran officially reported a total of five cases of the illness to the World Health Organization (WHO), including the two in Qom who died.

As of Thursday morning, there were 74,675 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in China, including 2121 people who have died of the illness.

Outside China, there were 1076 cases of COVID-19 in 26 countries, with a total of seven deaths from the virus, the World Health Organization said.

“Of all the cases outside China, more than half, more than half are among passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship,” said WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.