The mysterious outbreak of the coronavirus in China has led to a worldwide panic, however, the World Health Organization declared that it’s too early to label it as a global emergency.
The mysterious virus belongs to the same class of viruses as SARS – that were most active between 2002 and 2003. Originating from Wuhan, the capital of the Hubei province in China, the pathogen has rapidly spread to not only the neighboring cities but also several other countries.
So far, the virus has affected over 500 individuals in five different countries and caused around 18 confirmed deaths. Other sources claim that the patient toll has risen to 650.
Exhibiting symptoms of ‘fever and respiratory distress’, a definitive source of the virus and a possible course of action to prevent the epidemic hasn’t been released to the public yet.
According to Tedros Adham, “director general of WHO”, “Make no mistake, this is, though, an emergency in China. But it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one. The fact that I’m not declaring a [global health emergency] today should not be taken as a sign that the WHO does not think the situation is serious or is not taking it seriously.”
As per the World Health Organization, ‘’a global emergency’’ or ‘’Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC)”, can be defined as “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
In the last 10 years, 5 outbreaks have been labeled a global emergency – “swine flu (2009), Ebola outbreaks in West Africa (2014) and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2019), Zika (2016), and polio (2014).”
The International Health Regulations Committee held a meeting for determining whether the current situation can be labeled a PHEIC, however, could not reach a decision due to conflict of opinion between its members.
Didier Houssin, committee chair, talked about the meeting saying that those who opposed labeling the outbreak as a global emergency defended their case by citing “he limited the number of cases abroad and the aggressive efforts of Chinese officials to contain the virus”.
He continued, “Declaring PHEIC is an important step in the history of an epidemic. The perception of this declaration by the international community and in the most affected country for the people who are presently struggling with the virus certainly has to be considered.”
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS is a viral respiratory disease caused by SARS coronavirus. The outbreak of the disease in Southern China between 2002-2003, caused around 8,098 cases and 774 deaths, in 17 countries.
Initial symptoms of the infection include fever, muscle pain, lethargy symptoms, cough, and a sore throat. It may eventually lead to shortness of breath and pneumonia, either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia.
Coronavirus is a group of viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds, including diarrhea in cows and pigs, and upper respiratory disease in chickens. There are no vaccines or antiviral drugs approved for the treatment and prevention of the virus yet.