New Coronavirus Declared Public Health Emergency of Global Concern

January 30, 2020

WHO declares the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak a global emergency as first person-to-person transmission occurs in US.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).1

The declaration was a result of the second meeting convened by the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee. In a previous meeting regarding the 2019-nCoV outbreak, Committee members had originally expressed differing views on whether the situation constituted a PHEIC.1

Originating from Wuhan, China, infections with 2019-nCoV are increasingly being reported in a number of countries internationally, including the United States. According to the CDC, there are currently 92 potential 2019-nCoV US cases under investigation and 6 confirmed infections in the United States to date.2

Related: CDC: 2 Novel Coronavirus Cases Reported in US, Risk to Public Is Still Low

Today, the CDC reported the first case of human-to-human transmission of 2019-nCoV between 2 individuals in the United States. The latest patient has no history of travel to Wuhan, but shared a household with the patient diagnosed with 2019-nCoV on January 21, 2020, according to the CDC report.3 Overall, there has been human-to-human transmission reported in 3 countries outside of China.1

Previously, all confirmed US cases had been associated with travel to Wuhan, China. Still, the agency noted that the full scope of how easily and sustainably the virus can spread is still unclear.3

“Given what we’ve seen in China and other countries with the novel coronavirus, CDC experts have expected some person-to-person spread in the US,” CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD, said in a statement.3 “We understand that this may be concerning, but based on what we know now, we still believe the immediate risk to the American public is low.”

In China alone, there have been 7771 confirmed and 12167 suspected cases throughout the country, according to WHO. Of the confirmed cases, 1370 are severe and there have been 170 deaths.1  

Calling for a “global coordinated effort,” the Committee noted that it believes it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, “provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate, and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.”1

According to the Committee, “countries should place particular emphasis on reducing human infection, prevention of secondary transmission and international spread, and contributing to the international response.”1

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