The novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China is now a global health emergency, says the World Health Organization.
A Public Health Emergency of International Concern is described by WHO as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
The Wuhan virus has spread to 23 countries, and has taken 213 lives in the weeks since the outbreak started in Wuhan, a city the size of London in the middle of China. There have been 9,171 confirmed cases, as of Jan. 30, 2020.
“The main reason is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” said Tedros Adhanom, Director General of WHO. “Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to other countries with weaker health systems, which are ill prepared to deal with it.”
Six cases of the virus have been identified in the U.S. The most recent was of a family member in Chicago who was caring for a coronavirus patient who had returned from a trip to Wuhan during the initial outbreak.
There have been five previous public health emergencies of international concern declared by WHO:
- 2009 H1N1
- 2014 polio
- 2014 Ebola in West Africa
- 2016 Zika
- 2019 Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo