Coronavirus: WHO declares deadly virus global emergence, advises Africa and other continents to prepare for containment

The number of confirmed new cases of the coronavirus has grown steadily to 7,711 in China, while another 81,000 people are under observation
  • The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak of novel coronavirus 2019 in China, as global emergence.
  • The decision was made after the second meeting of the Emergency Committee convened by the WHO Director-General under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) on Thursday, January 30, 2020.

Following the growing outbreak of the coronavirus since it started in Wuhan, China, the World Health Organisation (WHO) convened a second meeting of the Emergency Committee on January 30, 2020.

Taking into consideration that at least 200 people have died and over 9,000 other people have caught the virus, doctors and public-health experts at the meeting declared the killer virus a "public-health emergency of international concern."

Making the emergency declaration, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak."

Advising Africa and other continents to prepare for containment, he added, "We don't know what sort of damage this virus could do if it were spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility."

WHO is also proposing ‘2019-nCoV’ as an interim name of the virus.

What does this mean?

Once an outbreak is declared an emergency, the 194 member countries of the WHO including Nigeria are on high alert to do the following;

  • Screen travelers
  • Monitor international trade
  • Share information with the WHO to prevent the outbreak from spreading out of control. 

Special emphasis is placed on reducing human infection, prevention of secondary transmission and international spread.

Further explaining what this designation, Dr Adrian Hyzler, the chief medical officer at Healix International, told Business Insider: "Suddenly the world's alerted to a much greater extent, and they'll start pouring a lot more assistance and aid to airports, to transport hubs, and do their best to control this outbreak."

This declaration is reserved for extremely serious, sudden, unexpected outbreaks especially the ones that cross international borders, pose a public-health risk and "require a coordinated international response."

Before this latest coronavirus outbreak, the WHO has only made this emergency declaration five times since 2005.

How does the virus infect people?

The coronavirus can be passed from human-to-human through bodily fluids, like saliva or mucus. It can only survive outside the body for a matter of hours.

Since coronavirus is in the same family as the common cold, pneumonia, MERS, and SARS, symptoms can range from runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache, days-long fever and difficulty in breathing.

Sharing tips on the best way to protect yourself from this virus, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC's National Center for Immunisation and Respiratory Diseases, said, "Wash your hands, cover your cough, take care of yourself, and keep alert to the information that we're providing."

Scientists are currently “moving at unprecedented speed” to find a vaccine for coronavirus and begin clinical trials before June.

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