WHO calls coronavirus outbreak a global emergency; more cases reported outside of China

February 3, 2020

The novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) outbreak has been declared a global emergency recently, with World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus issuing a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) announcement – it will allow countries to follow the WHO’s leadership in taking certain measures especially on interaction with affected countries.

“The declaration of the PHEIC should be seen in the spirit of support and appreciation for China, its people, and the actions China has taken on the frontline of this outbreak, with transparency, and, it is to be hoped, with success,” said WHO; the body believes it is still possible to interrupt the spread of the virus using “strong measures to detect the disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.”

The number of cases of the 2019-nCov has risen alarmingly –the virus has spread to nearly 25 countries, most recently to India, the Philippines and Italy.

According to an analysis by Johns Hopkins University’s Centre for Systems Science and Engineering (JHU-CSSE), a total of 14, 540 cases have been confirmed including 304 deaths as of February 2, 2020.

In Malaysia, which has eight confirmed cases so far, the Health Ministry’s former Infectious Disease Head Datuk Dr. Christopher Lee said the PHEIC declaration and WHO recommendations would “give credence and credibility” to interventions such as travel policies and restrictions, trade and data sharing, among others – rather than every country taking unilateral, uncoordinated measures.

Dr. Lee reiterated that the 2019-nCov has a droplet and contact spread – not airborne – that can transmit itself very fast, especially in a globalised world, “It needs urgent reaction at this point as there’s no herd immunity.”

Quoting the US’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthoni S. Fauci, he said the driver of an outbreak has always been a symptomatic person; however, this does not mean it cannot be spread from asymptomatic persons, who could be actively shedding the virus.

Dr. Lee opines that the infection control protocol on handling 2019-nCov should be similar to that of SARS. Although 2019-nCoV has not shown to be as severe as SARS, it is definitely related as more than 80% of the viral genome is similar. He added that countries should focus on the information available; otherwise, all measures will be driven by fear and perceptions.


Category: Features, Health alert

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