WHO declares Wuhan coronavirus 2019-nCoV a global health emergency – Business Insider
Doctors and public-health experts at the World Health Organization in Geneva have declared the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a “public-health emergency of international concern” (PHEIC).
The virus has so far sickened at least 8,100 people and killed 170 in China where it originated. Cases have been reported in 19 other countries around the globe.
“Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday when he announced the emergency declaration. “We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it were spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility.”
The PHEIC designation is reserved by the WHO for the most serious, sudden, unexpected outbreaks that cross international borders. These diseases pose a public-health risk without bounds and may “potentially require a coordinated international response,” the WHO says on its website.
The emergency designation puts the 196 member countries of the WHO on alert that they should step up precautions, such as screening travelers and monitoring international trade, in hopes of preventing the outbreak from spreading out of control.
Last week, the WHO committee was split about whether to declare the new coronavirus outbreak — which experts suspect originated at an animal market in the city of Wuhan — an international emergency. Members delayed their final decision by a day, saying they needed more time to gather information about the virus’s severity and transmissibility.
“This declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China,” Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.
Symptoms of the coronavirus, which is in the same family as the common cold, pneumonia, MERS, and SARS, can range from mild to deadly. Most of the fatalities so far have been among the elderly and patients with pre-existing conditions. Only a laboratory test can confirm that a virus is the novel coronavirus.