WHO calls emergency meeting as deadly coronavirus outbreak spreads in China

WHO calls emergency meeting as deadly coronavirus outbreak spreads in China
Illustration image of Wuhan, China. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called on Monday for an emergency meeting to discuss whether or not the outbreak of the novel coronavirus in China should be declared a "public health emergency of international concern."

The Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus will convene in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday to discuss the status of the virus, as well as what recommendations should be made to manage the outbreak. 

As the WHO prepares for its emergency meeting, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus has continued to spread, taking its fourth victim, an 89-year-old man from Wuhan- the capital of Central China’s Hubei province- on Tuesday.

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to Middle East respiratory syndrome-related (MERS) coronavirus and Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Approximately 224 people with coronavirus in China have been identified, with China’s National Health Commission confirming to CNN the first cases of human-to-human transmission of the new SARS-like virus.

So far, WHO has only used the term "public health emergency of international concern" in rare cases of epidemics that have necessitated a swift and rigorous international response, including for Ebola fever. 

As fears mount that the SARS-like virus will spread further afield, more preventative measures are being taken in airports welcoming in flights from Wuhan. This is especially true of airports in the U.S., Thailand, Singapore and Australia.

Evie McCullough

The Brussels Times

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