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Thursday, January 30, 2020

WHO Declares Coronavirus A Global Health Emergency

WHO Declares Coronavirus A Global Health Emergency

WHO Declares Coronavirus Outbreak A Global Health Emergency

The World Health Organization announced Thursday that the outbreak of a deadly and fast-spreading strain of coronavirus constitutes a global health emergency.

"Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak, and which has been met by an unprecedented response," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

However, Tedros was adamant that "the main reason for the declaration is not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries. ... Let me be clear, this vote is not a declaration of no confidence in China." He said the WHO is deeply concerned about what will happen if the virus begins spreading in countries with weak health systems, and that the purpose of the declaration is to help those countries.

WHO Declares Coronavirus A Global Health Emergency
The declaration of a global health emergency can work to galvanize international funding. According to the WHO's procedures, the three criteria for such a declaration are that it is an "extraordinary event," that it "constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease" and that it "potentially require a coordinated international response."

The last time the WHO announced an international health emergency was in July 2019 over the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Before that, international emergencies were declared in 2016 for the Zika virus and in 2014 for the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The coronavirus drew worldwide attention after Chinese authorities began reporting cases of pneumonia in the eastern city of Wuhan last month. They were able to pinpoint the cause to a previously unknown strain. Other forms of coronavirus, such as SARS and MERS, have been responsible for past international outbreaks.

Health authorities believe this particular strain, known as 2019-nCoV, likely spread from an animal. China's National Health Commission has said that it is associated with exposure at a seafood market that also sold live animals in Wuhan.

Since then, the virus has spread from Wuhan to countries around the world, including the United States, Japan, Singapore and Thailand. "The vast majority of those cases are still associated with travel to Wuhan," said Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program.

[ By NPR ]

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