With over 8,100 people infected, the deadly novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that originated in China has spread to numerous countries and is quickly spiraling out of control. As the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to reconsider its original decision to not declare the virus a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC), AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) urges WHO to not waste anymore time and immediately declare 2019-nCoV an international emergency.
“It is absurd that WHO does not consider the new coronavirus an international threat,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “With the criticism WHO has faced before in dealing with Ebola, it’s clearly better to be safe than sorry. The world is at risk and once again this is a reminder that we desperately need a global convention on public health to be better prepared for deadly outbreaks. We urge WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus to not waste time and immediately declare the coronavirus a PHEIC.”
Since the WHO emergency committee met on January 22 and 23—when it decided it would not declare the 2019-nCoV a global public health emergency—the number of those infected has jumped from 557 to over 8,100, with 21 countries total reporting cases. Chinese authorities also reported new data that showed increases in total cases, suspected cases, affected provinces and the mortality rate (4%), according to WHO.
The 2019-nCoV has so far been responsible for at least 170 deaths and meets the conditions for a PHEIC to be declared, as it is a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and potentially requires a coordinated international response.
“In addition to an immediate emergency declaration, we call on the UN Security Council to be convened to act on this crisis, as it should in response to any major outbreak,” added Weinstein. ”AHF operates in 43 countries, including in China and seven others that have seen infected patients – we know firsthand what happens when infectious disease outbreaks devastate entire communities. All options should be considered to contain the outbreak and help those who have been impacted.”
The cause of the 2019-nCoV has not yet been established, but many patients were reportedly linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, suggesting the virus likely emerged from an animal source and is now spreading person-to-person.