Despite a rapid viral outbreak of coronavirus from Wuhan, China, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the situation is not yet threatening enough to declare a public health emergency.
WHO announced this after considering the issue in a two-day emergency committee meeting of health experts. The said virus has so far infected over 600 people from across the world, though mostly in China, where 17 deaths have been reported so far.
Besides China, coronavirus cases have also been reported in Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and the United States. The incurable virus causes fever and difficulty in breathing and eventually death.
Director-General of the world health organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said:
Make no mistake that there is now an emergency in China; it has not yet become a global health emergency.
He also shared some additional details on the virus and its affectees around the globe.
The Emergency Committee on the new #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) considered that it is still too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern given its restrictive and binary nature
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 23, 2020
We know that this virus can cause severe disease and that it can kill, although for most people it causes milder symptoms. We know that among those infected, one-quarter of patients have experienced the severe disease.
He noted that most of the people who died of this virus had previous medical backgrounds of hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular diseases that weakened their immune system.
Dr. Tedros said that the human-to-human transmission of the virus was observed only in China and nowhere else in the world.
Human-to-human transmission has been observed in China. However, it so far seems to be mostly limited to close family members and health-care workers. There have been no such cases outside the country so far.
The chances of more cases appearing in China and elsewhere are high, but concerns of international health emergency declaration are rare, he said.
In the past decade, an international health emergency has been imposed on five occasions:
- The H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009
- Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014
- Polio outbreak in 2014
- Zika virus in 2016
- The ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo
WHO’s decision is quite alarming considering that no matter the severity of the virus, it is spreading quickly and could become a global epidemic if not halted at its source immediately.