WHO mulls declaring ‘coronavirus’, global health threat

The headquarters of the World Health Organization (WHO) is pictured in Geneva [Photo Credit: VOANEWS]

Following the announcement by China’s national health body that the new coronavirus can be transmitted from person to person, the World Health Organisation (WHO) will hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide if it (ailment) should be declared a global health emergency.

WHO, in a message via its Twitter account on Monday said the agency’s Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, will “convene an Emergency Committee on the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) under the International Health Regulations”, with the aim of ascertaining “whether the outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern, and what recommendations should be made to manage it”.

The agency, in response to the notification of spread of the disease in a person in Thailand last week, had released guidelines on the detection and treatment of the disease.

However, due to the latest developments on the disease, the agency is expected to meet on Wednesday to decide the status of the disease.


The new virus was first detected in Wuhan, China, but as at Monday, over 300 cases have been identified and six deaths confirmed from the disease.

The international transmission of the disease was first reported in January 13 in a traveller from China to Thailand.

Asides this, other cases have been recorded in Japan, South Korea Taiwan and the U.S.

There has been no reported case of the virus in Nigeria or any African country.

According to CNN, the first case of Wuhan coronavirus in the U.S was reported last Wednesday.

Despite initial reports that the virus was unlikely to spread between humans, Chinese health authorities have said there is “definitely human and human transmission”.

As it stands now, one patient is believed to have infected as many as 14 medical staff in one hospital, suggesting the disease can be spread far more easily than previously thought.

Many countries are beginning to put out different measures to check the transmission of the disease into their countries.

CNN reports that airports across Asia have stepped up temperature screening of incoming passengers, as have several hubs in the U.S. with connections to Wuhan, including New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

It also reported that the National Institute of Health, U.S., is working on a vaccine for the new virus.

Also, scientists in Texas, New York and China are also working on a vaccine although, it may take at least a few months until the first phase of clinical trials get underway and more than a year until a vaccine might be available.


WHO described Coronavirus as “a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases”.

They are linked to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which broke out in Asia in 2003, and spread to countries in North America, South America and Europe, killing nearly 650 people in China before being successfully contained later that year.

Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.

In more severe cases, an infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people, and there are several known coronaviruses currently circulating in animals, that have not yet infected humans.

According to WHO spokesperson, Tarik Jasarevic, based on the current information, ”an animal source seems the most likely primary source of this outbreak with limited human-to-human transmission occurring between close contacts”.


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