Coronavirus Outbreak Declared By WHO As Global Public Health Emergency

With the death toll rising to 170, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus that began in China a global public health emergency.

Rising Global Epidemic

Per the latest update by WHO in a telephone news conference, four countries outside of China have already reported eight cases of human-to-human transmission, while another 14 countries have also reported cases within their own borders.

According to the health organization, declaring the viral outbreak as a global public health emergency would give it more clout in recommending how affected countries should be responding to the new virus threat. For example, China (where there are already around 8,000 cases) has already locked cities that are home to at least 50 million people in an effort to stop spreading the virus more. Furthermore, it has also started setting up health facilities in Wuhan to help treat those that are infected.

“We don’t know what kind of damage this virus could do if the virus spread throughout a country with a weaker health system than China’s. For all these reasons, I’m declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of novel coronavirus,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“This person-to-person spread was between two very close contacts. The risk to the general public in Illinois remains low,” Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a news briefing.

Previously, WHO has held off in declaring the viral outbreak as a public health emergency, citing that at the moment, there are still no human-to-human transmission cases outside of China. However, the new updates have prompted it to do so, marking the 6th time that the designation has been used.

Per experts, the declaration can cause governments and public health officials to cooperate more despite the recommendations not having any legal binding. One example is that the WHO can now question the actions (or lack of) that are taken by countries to stop the spreading of the virus. It can also now officially recommend actions that can interfere with international travel and trade.

Electron microscope view of MERS coronavirus The WHO has reported another confirmed case of MERS in Qatar, raising the total number of confirmed cases worldwide to 139. CDC