On Thursday, Jan. 30, death toll attributed to the deadly novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV outbreak reached 213, all in China and about 10,000 cases have been reported, 95% of them in China. Elsewhere, 98 cases have been reported by 18 countries though no fatality has been reported. In the light of this situation, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak -- a 'Public Health Emergency of International Comcern' (PHEIC).
Coronavirus outbreak: a global health emergency
All 213 fatalities and more than 95% of the 10,000 cases have been in China, BBC reported. But, the WHO declared the disease outbreak, a global health emergency "not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries", said WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
"Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it", said Dr. Tedros.
Though majority of the 98 cases reported outside China are of those who had recently traveled to China, eight cases of human-to-human transmission have been confirmed by Japan, Vietnam, Germany and the United States. "We must support countries with weaker health systems", said Dr. Tedros.
Low and middle-income countries often find it difficult to deal with disease outbreaks. Declaration of a global health emergency allows the WHO to support such countries to strengthen their disease surveillance and prepare them for cases.
Declaring a "public-health emergency of international concern" (PHEIC) is the loudest alarm that WHO can ring, a step it reserves for events that pose a risk to multiple countries and that require a coordinated international response. "Let me be clear: this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China", he added.
Global health emergency declared in the past
WHO declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern when there is "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease". Previously, the world health body on five occasions has declared a disease outbreak-a global health emergency as listed below: