Jan. 29 (UPI) -- The Trump administration announced the formation of a coronavirus task force on Wednesday as the disease continues to spread worldwide.
The White House said in a statement that the President's Coronavirus Task Force has been meeting daily since Monday and will lead the Trump Administration's efforts to monitor, contain and mitigate the spread of the disease.
Chinese health officials announced early Thursday that the death toll climbed to 170 from 132 the day before and the number of confirmed cases surged to nearly 8,000, well above the 5,327 cases of SARS reported in the Asian nation during the outbreak of 2002 to 2003 that killed more than 800 people.
The disease has spread to more than 15 countries, including the United States where five patients have tested positive for the disease, called 2019-nCoV, with an additional 92 people still awaiting test results, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Donald Trump chaired the task force's meeting Wednesday, charging the 12 health experts to lead the U.S. government's response to the disease and to keep him updated, the White House said.
"Just received a briefing on the Coronavirus in China from all our GREAT agencies, who are also working closely with China," Trump said via Twitter. "We will continue to monitor the ongoing developments. We have the best experts anywhere in the world, and they are on top of it 24/7!"
Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar has been tapped to lead the task force, which is to be coordinated through the National Security Council and is composed of White House and government agency experts from the CDC, State Department, Homeland Security, Transportation Department and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, among others.
"The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and all agencies are working aggressively to monitor this continuously evolving situation," the White House said.