On Thursday, January 30th, doctors and public-health experts of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva declared Coronavirus a global health emergency. The virus first appeared in Wohan, China, on December 31st, 2019.
On this same day, the U.S. reported its first case of human-to-human transmission. It has also spread in 18 other countries, infecting more than 8000 people and killing 170 people in China.
The world’s top health advisory body stressed the seriousness of the situation and called on countries to take whatever measures needed, especially those with a weaker health care system.
This designation has alerted the 194 member countries of the WHO to step up with precautions, especially at airports.
In order to prevent the virus from spreading out of control, since some unexpected cases have appeared on people who had not traveled to China during the outbreak, countries are called to take safety measures.
These measures include screening travelers and regularly updating the WHO. They are all stressed recommendations, and WHO will be offering aid to the airports.
During a news conference at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters, the organization’s Director-General Tedros Adnahom Ghebreyesus issued that, over the past few weeks, they have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen that has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak.
He stated that this situation is extraordinary and may require a coordinated international response. Declaring this virus a “public health emergency of International event” shows that this is indeed serious.
This would be the 6th declaration of its kind in the past decade. Thus, Ghebreyesus stressed that “we must act together now to limit the spread.”
However, the Director-General urges the public to stay calm: “This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”
He also assured all those affected by the coronavirus that the world stands with them, and he urged other people to see the infected as people, not numbers.
This declaration is by no means “a vote of no confidence in China,” since China is doing the best it can to contain the outbreak. This only means that the world should be on alert for this major event.
“The main reason is not because of what is happening in China,” says Tedros, “but because of what is happening in other countries.”
WHO also posted these important instructions on their site to help people stay cautious:
Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs, and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.