By Janet Stephenson
As of January 28, 2020, the outbreak of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in China has been officially designated a global emergency by the World Health Organization. The declaration came after China reported more than 7,800 cases and 170 deaths, as well as reported cases in eighteen other countries, including the United States, South Korea, Canada, Japan, and France.
In a press conference statement, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries…Our greatest concern is the potential for this virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”
The declaration of a global emergency will bring more money and resources into the fight to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Regarding our local preparedness for handling an outbreak like this, Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks has stated the following with regard to handling a potential health crisis, “Los Robles Regional Medical Center, in cooperation with local police, emergency services, and public health agencies, has created a Disaster Response Plan to respond effectively to any type of disaster which could occur in our service area with the potential of adverse health affects to our community.”
Some countries have already restricted travel to and from China as a precaution, and Russia, North Korea, and Mongolia have closed their borders with China. Of major concern is that the virus seems to spread among individuals who have had less contact with those infected than would be expected, as in families and close friends, and that those infected might be contagious before showing symptoms.
Dr. Jeremy Farrar, director of Britain’s Wellcome Trust, tweeted, “It is absolutely right for WHO to have declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Countries, public health teams and researchers worldwide have been acting on this with the very highest level of concern for the last few weeks. But this virus has spread at unprecedented scale and speed, with cases passing between people in multiple countries across the world. Declaration of an international emergency will undoubtedly sharpen governments’ focus on protecting citizens.”
Even though the virus has spread to other countries, officials still hope for a swift containment. China has been praised for its rapid response to the outbreak and with the declaration of a global emergency, more resources will be available to battle its spread internationally.