Amid rising cases of new infections of the respiratory illness novel coronavirus in China and three other countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) today informed that their emergency committee will convene tomorrow to advise if the current situation in China constitutes a public health emergency of international concern.
Speaking to the media today at the United Nations in Geneva, WHO’s spokesperson Tarik Jašarević said that “the Director-General has convened the Emergency Committee for tomorrow, Wednesday 22nd January, to advise him if the situation constitutes a public health emergency of international concern and what recommendations should be put in place”.
Mr. Jasarevic informed that “so far, worldwide there has been a total of 278 officially reported confirmed cases of 2019 novel coronavirus”.
According to Chinese Health Officials, six people have died since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus disease in December 2019.
Yesterday, China’s health authorities confirmed a human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus which could make the virus spread more quickly and widely.
According to WHO’s spokesperson, “4 cases have been reported outside China, two in Thailand, one in Japan and one in the Republic of Korea. This is what we have been informing about you previously”.
He added that “more cases should be expected in other parts of China and possibly in other countries in the coming days. A team from WHO are concluding a mission with health officials in Wuhan working on the response to novel coronavirus”.
The WHO said that the outbreak was believed to have originated in a seafood and animal market in the city of Wuhan from where it is spreading to cities including Beijing and Shanghai.
“Based on current information, an animal source seems the most likely primary source of this outbreak with limited human-to-human trans missional occurring between close contacts”, Tarik Jasarevic told the media. He confirmed that there is a human-to-human transmission. “Based on previous experiences with respiratory illnesses and in particular with other coronavirus outbreaks and other data analysis shared with China, human-to- human transmission is occurring”.
The virus causes a type of pneumonia and belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as SARS. Symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases.
According to Jasarevic, “reports suggest that the novel coronavirus infection can cause mild to severe disease and be fatal in some. Based on current data, some new cases seem to experience milder diseases which is within the milder end of the spectrum of symptoms caused by respiratory illnesses”.
So far, WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions. To reduce exposure and transmission of the novel coronavirus, WHO recommends cleaning hands with soap and water, covering mouth and nose with masks or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and seek medical advice if a person is showing symptoms.
The novel coronavirus has caused alarm because of its connection to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed nearly 650 people across China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.