Last week, the World Health Organization made an announcement regarding whether novel Coronavirus (originated in Wuhan, China) can be considered as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Many got surprised after this deadly virus wasn’t declared as a global emergency. But recently, the WHO has provided an explanation about this decision.
Though originated in China, this novel Coronavirus has also infected individuals from many other countries. New cases of this virus have now been reported in the United States, Europe, Middle East, Australia, and many countries in Asia.
With each passing day, there is an increase in the number of individuals who got infected and died because of this deadly virus. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is a director-general at WHO. In a statement regarding this Coronavirus issue, he said that such announcements by the organization aren’t taken casually.
The public has no idea about how worse the situation should get before declaring it as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. The concept of PHEIC first surfaced when a Coronavirus-linked SARS outbreak was observed in 2003.
In the current scenario of the Coronavirus outbreak, the species barrier was crossed by the virus when humans were exposed to infected excrement in the animal market of Wuhan.
But in contrast to the current circumstances, SARS infection continued to spread for several months in China before the problem was acknowledged by the authorities. More than 8,000 cases of SARS and 700 deaths were reported in 37 countries before the WHO declared the SARS outbreak as PHEIC, and the situation was controlled.
The PHEIC comes under the 2005 International Health Regulations that make efforts to prevent and control disease or provide protection against it. Under this legal framework, the countries are expected to have and maintain certain core capacities.
The countries should be capable of diagnosing infected individuals and isolating them. Up till now, WHO has declared PHEIC in five situations, including 2009 pandemic of swine flu, 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa, 2014 wild poliovirus resurgence, 2015-16 Zika emergency, and 2018-19 Ebola outbreak in Kivu.
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Tedros explained that there’s no need for announcing this Coronavirus outbreak as a global emergency because the international coordinated response to this outbreak is present even without such a declaration.
After this outbreak, quick action was taken by China in reporting this situation and sharing all the information regarding it. Moreover, this virus was also immediately sequenced by Chinese scientists to discover its genetic makeup.
The immediate provision of the data regarding this novel Coronavirus enabled many other countries to develop their testing methods for diagnosing the infected individuals. The Chinese authorities are taking every possible measure to control this Coronavirus epidemic.
But still, it’s uncertain whether this outbreak can be controlled at this stage. The UK and many other countries are taking measures like screening passengers at the airport who are coming from Wuhan, and reporting health authorities immediately if a passenger is diagnosed with this virus. But there is a need to extend these measures and also screen patients coming from other areas of China.