The deadly Corona Virus continues to spread worldwide as reports out of China continue to worsen.
- The World Health Organization had declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global health emergency
- The ‘public health emergency of international concern’ is the highest warning the UN health agency can give
- Just one week ago, WHO officials said it was too early to declare the outbreak an emergency
- It comes the same day that the sixth US case of coronavirus was confirmed in a Chicago man in his 60s
- This marks the first case of human-to-human transmission of the virus in America
- The man was infected by his wife, 60, who became the second person in the US to be diagnosed after she returned from a trip to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak
- The couple, who have not been identified, are now both being isolated at a suburban Chicago hospital
- Four other cases have been confirmed in Arizona, California and Washington – all of whom traveled to China
- Currently, there are 168 possible cases are under investigation in the US, 21 of which are in Illinois
- Worldwide, more than 8,000 people have been infected and 170 people – all in China – have died
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Thursday that it was declaring the deadly coronavirus outbreak spreading from China to be a global health emergency.
The warning, officially known as a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ and defined as an ‘extraordinary event’, is the highest alert the UN health agency can issue.
Just one week ago, the organization decided to hold off the declaration as there was no evidence of human-to-human evidence outside of China.
However, in the week since, the number of cases surged ten-fold.
Additionally, Thursday was the first confirmed case of person-to-person case transmission of coronavirus in the US after a man in was infected from his wife, who had previously traveled to China.
‘The main reason for this declaration is not for what is happening in China but because of what is happening in other countries,’ Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO Director-General, said at a press conference.
‘Our greatest concern is for the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, which are ill prepared to deal with it.’
He added that the declaration didn’t mean a ‘vote of no confidence in China’ and, in fact, congratulated the Chinese government for taking ‘extraordinary measures’ to contain the outbreak.
This marks the fifth time the WHO has made such a declaration since the rule to do was implemented in 2005: for the influenza pandemic of 2009, a resurgence of polio 2014, the Ebola crisis in 2014, the outbreak of Zika virus outbreak in 2016 and the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2019.
Such a declaration does not give the WHO more money, but officials can make recommendation on travel or trade was well as mobilize public and political action.
It comes on the heels of news of the sixth confirmed case in the US of a man whose wife had already been infected.
The man’s wife, who is in her 60s, became the second American after she returned from a trip to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak.
‘Given what we’ve seen in China and other countries with the novel coronavirus, CDC experts have expected some person-to-person spread in the US,’ Dr Robert Redfield, director of the CDC told reporters in a media call on Thursday.
‘We understand that this may be concerning, but based on what we know now, we still believe the immediate risk to the American public is low.’
The couple, who have not been identified, are now both being isolated at St Alexius Hospital in Hoffman Estates, a suburb of Chicago.
According to officials from the Illinois Department of Health, the wife is ‘doing well’ and the husband is ‘stable’.
The wife traveled to Wuhan – where the virus originated – in late December to take care of her elderly father.World Health Organisation: Coronavirus is a public health emergencyLoaded: 0%Progress: 0%0:00PlayCurrent Time0:00/Duration Time1:07Fullscreen
She arrived at O’Hare International Airport on January 13, but did not begin experiencing symptoms until several days later.
CDC officials say they do not believe she infected her husband until she was symptomatic.
The husband had some pre-existing medical conditions, similar to many infected patients, but health officials would not elaborate on what those conditions were.
Health officials say that the man was not attending mass gatherings and they are monitoring close contacts.
‘This person-to-person spread was between two very close contacts, a wife and husband,’ said Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health in the media call on Thursday.
‘It is not spreading in the wider community.’
Previously, all confirmed US cases had been in patients who travel to Wuhan, where an outbreak has been ongoing since December 2019.
However, there have been cases of human-to-human transmission reported outside of China, including in Germany, Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The four other cases have been confirmed in Maricopa County, Arizona; Orange County and Los Angeles County California; and Snohomish County, Washington.
Currently, 168 cases are under investigation in at least 26 states – 21 of those alone in Illinois.
The CDC say it is likely that more cases of the virus, known as 2019-nCoV, will be reported in the next several days and weeks.
Signs and symptoms of the illness include fever, cough, and shortness of breath, with 20 percent of cases becoming severe.
Health officials say the best steps Americans can take to stay safe is to practice basic hygiene including washing hands with warm water and soap and coughing or sneezing into an elbow.
Meanwhile in China, the coronavirus death toll has risen to 170 as of Thursday afternoon and several countries – including the US and UK – have advised against non-essential travel to the nation.
More than 8,000 people have been sickened by the deadly strain in at least 18 countries and territories amid an international effort to stop the spread.
US EVACUATES 195 AMERICANS FROM WUHAN AND PLANS SECOND RESCUE FLIGHT
On Wednesday, an evacuation flight with 195 Americans onboard landed at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California.
They were greeted by in officials hazmat suits before being filed onto awaiting buses and taken to another building.
The plane, which also carried six members, departed Wuhan before dawn on Wedneday before stopping to refuel in Anchorage, Alaska.
Originally scheduled to fly to Ontario International Airport in Ontario, California, tje flight was diverted to the air base 25 miles away without explanation late on Tuesday night.
Currently, the passengers are under a voluntary 72-hour quarantine as officials check for signs and symptoms.
Prior to this, the passengers underwent four screenings: two before departure in Wuhan and another two during a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska.
There are more than 1,000 Americans still in Wuhan, but the US State Department announced on Thursday it was planning a second evacuation flight.US citizens exit plane following evacuation from Wuhan.