(CBS News)- Doctors in China adopted a new way of diagnosing the novel coronavirus, leading to a huge jump in the official number of deaths blamed on the disease and the number of confirmed cases in the country. Officials in Hubei province, the Chinese region where the virus is believed to have jumped into the human population from wild animals, reported 254 new deaths and 15,152 new cases of the flu-like virus.
The increase brought the worldwide death toll to at least 1,370, including Japan’s first fatal case. The number of confirmed cases around the world was over 60,000.
Only about 400 of those patients, and just three of the confirmed fatalities, have been outside mainland China. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Thursday a 15th case of the disease – now called COVID-19 – in the United States.
The sharp increase in China came after two days of reported declines in confirmed new cases in the country. It was the result of Chinese doctors in Hubei province starting to use lung imaging to diagnose the disease, in addition to the standard nucleic acid tests they had been using.
Meanwhile, the largest cluster of coronavirus cases outside of China, on a cruise ship that has been quarantined for almost two weeks in Japan, continued to grow Thursday. With 218 cases confirmed from the Diamond Princess, Japan’s government said it would allow some elderly passengers to move into government-provided housing on land, where they would be monitored apart from the general population.