The number of cases for the flu-like coronavirus surged in the last day, with more than 3,100 new patients confirmed in China, World Health Organization officials said Wednesday.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a news conference that the reported cases are "the most cases in a single day since the outbreak started" Dec. 31.
Just 191 of the total cases are outside mainland China, and 80% of those cases are concentrated in Hubei province where the virus was first detected in the city of Wuhan, he said. Of the cases outside of China, 31 spread through human-to-human contact, mostly from close friends or relatives who had recently been to China.
Tedros issued a warning for countries monitoring the outbreak and pleaded for funding: "Invest today or pay more later."
"Our greatest concern is about the potential for spread in other countries with weaker health systems and who lack the capacity to detect and diagnose the virus," he said. "We're only as strong as the weakest link."
"We cannot defeat this outbreak without solidarity. Political solidarity, technical solidarity, and financial solidarity," he continued.
Tedros has been urging the WHO's 196 member countries to "invest in preparedness," not "panic." He said that funding for outbreak preparedness in surrounding countries "has remained grossly inadequate" in the past.
The WHO has tapped $9 million of funding from its contingency fund for emergencies, Tedros said Wednesday. He said the organization has sent medical supplies such as masks, gloves, gowns and diagnostic tests around the world.
He also announced that the WHO is launching a "strategy preparedness and response plan."
The WHO is requesting $675 million to fund the plan for the next three months, he said, adding that $60 million of that would fund WHO operations and the rest for country support.
Infectious disease specialists and scientists say the virus may be more contagious than current data shows. Data on the virus is changing by the day, and some infectious disease specialists say it will take weeks before they can see just how contagious it is.
The respiratory illness is not yet considered a pandemic. A pandemic is "an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people," according to WHO.