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WHO Declares Coronavirus Global Emergency

World Health Organization issues statement

WHO Declares Coronavirus Global Emergency

The U.N. health agency WHO (World Health Organization) defines an international emergency as an “extraordinary event” that constitutes a risk to other countries and requires a coordinated international response. Today, the WHO declared the Coronavirus outbreak which began in China and that has been exported to more than a dozen countries as a global emergency. The number of cases spiked tenfold in a week.

China first informed WHO about cases of the new virus in late December. To date, China has reported more than 7,800 cases including 170 deaths. Eighteen other countries have since reported cases, as scientists race to understand how exactly the virus is spreading and how severe it is.

Experts say there is significant evidence the virus is transmitting among people in China and have noted with concern several instances in other countries — including Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam — where there have also been isolated cases of human-to-human spread.

China first informed WHO about cases of the new virus in late December. To date, China has reported more than 7,800 cases including 170 deaths. Eighteen other countries have since reported cases, as scientists race to understand how exactly the virus is spreading and how severe it is.

Experts say there is significant evidence the coronavirus is spreading g among people in China and have noted with concern several instances in other countries – including Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam – where there have also been isolated cases of human-to-human transmission.

A declaration of a global emergency typically brings greater money and resources, but may also prompt nervous governments to restrict travel and trade to affected countries. The announcement also imposes more disease reporting requirements on countries.

It was earlier reported that for the first time in the U.S., the new virus from China has spread from one person to another, health officials said today.

The latest case — the sixth in the country — is the husband of a Chicago woman who got sick from the virus after she returned from the epicenter of an outbreak in China. There have been previous cases in China and elsewhere of the coronavirus spreading between people in a household or workplace.

The other five U.S. cases were travelers who developed the respiratory illness after returning to the U.S. from China. The latest patient had not been in China.

The Chicago woman came back from the central China city of Wuhan on Jan. 13, then last week went to a hospital with symptoms and was diagnosed with the viral illness. She and her husband, both in their 60s, are hospitalized. Neither have been identified.

The man began feeling sick Tuesday and was put in isolation that day. Tests confirming that he was infected came back Wednesday night, officials said.

Health officials were quick to try to ease any concerns that the case signals the start of local outbreak.

“The risk to the general public in Illinois remains low,” said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The man doesn’t use public transportation and he had not attended any large gatherings. Anyone who had been in close contact with him is being monitored, said officials with the state and with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The coronavirus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.

Experts have said they expected additional U.S. cases, and that at least some limited spread of the disease in the country was likely.

“We anticipated this,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert. “The kind of contact that you have in a household is very close and very prolonged. That’s the kind of circumstance where we would anticipate a virus such as this could be transmitted.”

The quick detection and isolation of the new patient shows, “The system is working,” said Schaffner, adding that he does not expect the virus to become widespread in the country.