WHO says Coronavirus is not a global public health​ emergency

Jan 23, 2020 | News

WHO committee meeting in Geneva to alert the press that a public heath emergency is not needed. (Screengrab/WHO)

Nathaniel Smith

The World Heath Organization has chosen not to declare the Coronavirus a public heath emergency even though the viral illness originating in China has killed 17 and sickened over 600 people.

“Make no mistake, this is an emergency in China, but it has not become a global emergency yet” said WHO director, Dr.Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The decision was announced at a news conference by the WHO after two days of emergency meetings in Geneva.

The examination of the Coronavirus by the WHO committee created a “divided decision” said Dr.Ghebreyesus, when they tried to determine if the virus is a global risk in its current state.

“Now is not the time, it’s still a bit too early to consider this event a public health emergency of international concern.” said the Chair of the emergency committee, Prof. Didier Houssin.

The latest cases of the virus have been confirmed in Hong Kong, Singapore, India, and the United States.

So far six Canadians are under treatment for flu like symptoms in Quebec but it is unknown at this time if they show any signs of the virus.

The Coronavirus, also known as the cousin of SARS and MERS virus, was believed to have spread from animals to humans, but is now believed to be airborne and can spread from human to human.

Early stages of the outbreak were thought to be caused by snakes. The WHO did not confirm this information but have not ruled out the possibility.

“We don’t know the source of this virus. We don’t understand how easily it spreads, and we don’t fully understand it’s clinical features of severity,” said Dr. Ghebreyesus.

The deadly virus has put several major Chinese cities under lockdown, including Wuhan, one of the largest cities in China that reported the first case and death from the virus.

The Coronavirus has killed 17 and infected over 600 people worldwide. (REUTERS/David Ryder)

Currently Huanggang and Ezhou won’t allow their citizens to fly or leave China by cancelling flights for Lunar New Year travellers. 

The WHO has received data from the Chinese government and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to construct an “epidemic curve”, but has trusted the measures that China has taken to contain the spread of the virus.

The CDC have communicated their concerns about the virus through a level 3 travel advisory, as other countries increase flight safety precautions.

Flu like symptoms including headache, runny nose, or sore throat can be found in infected patients, the potential complications can lead to pneumonia, sepsis, and even death.

A number of Chinese cities have been hit by the latest virus. Photo from CNN

Wearing masks is advised for Chinese citizens who should avoid contact with people who are sick.

The elderly have been hit the hardest by this outbreak, with many of the victims suffering from multiple immune diseases beforehand.

Only three Chinese regions have not reported the virus. 

“Many more might die in the coming days and may give the impression of an increased severity, so it’s extremely important that we stick to the facts” said Dr. Michael Ryan Executive Director.