By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest
The World Health Organization (WHO) today declared the spread of the coronavirus a global health emergency, The New York Times reports.
Start an Emergency & Disaster Management degree at American Military University.
“The WHO declaration — officially called a ‘public health emergency of international concern’ — does not have the force of law,” the Times added. “But it serves notice to all United Nations member states that the world’s top health advisory body thinks the situation is grave.”
First Person-to-Person Coronavirus Case Confirmed in US
The declaration comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Illinois public health officials confirmed the first person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus in the United States, CNBC reported Thursday.
The new patient is the husband of a Chicago woman who brought the infection back from Wuhan, China, CNBC said, citing CDC and Illinois state health officials. The new patient is in his 60s and is currently in good condition with “some underlying medical conditions.”
“As of Thursday morning 8,130 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours in China,” CNBC noted. In addition, 68 cases have been reported around the world, six of them in the United States. But so far there have been no reported deaths outside China.
Chinese authorities have announced 38 new deaths attributed to the coronavirus. That brings the death toll in China to 170, “with cases now confirmed in every province and region of the country,” the Times reported.
Of the 38 deaths, all but one occurred in Hubei province. The virus originated in Wuhan, a provincial city of some 11 million residents. The other death occurred in neighboring Sichuan Province, the Times said.
WHO says that “Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).” Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.
CDC Official Says Virus Is Not Spreading in the US and Risk Is Low
"Right now, we have a handful of patients with this new virus here in the United States," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, told Government Technology.
"However, at this time in the U.S., this virus is not spreading in the community. For that reason, we continue to believe that the immediate health risk from the new virus to the general American public is low at this time."
Coronavirus Caused Cruise Ship to Be Quarantined in Italy
The low risk of contracting the coronavirus is little consolation for the 7,000 passengers and crew on a cruise ship quarantined at the port of Civitavecchia, near Rome. A spokesperson for Costa Cruises told CNN “that a 54-year-old woman aboard the cruise ship was suffering from a fever and that she and her husband were both being tested for the virus.”
“The woman and her husband were from Hong Kong and were being kept separately in solitary confinement in the hospital section of the cruiseliner. The passengers and crew will be held until the woman and her husband both test negative to the virus,” CNN added.
State Department Announces Evacuation Flights for US Citizens in China
As the disease continues to spread across mainland China, the U.S. State Department has announced plans to offer evacuation flights for private U.S. citizens in China, Fox News reported. The flights will leave from Wuhan International Airport on or about February 3 and “will be available on a reimbursable basis,” a State Department statement said.
Russia Closing Its Border with China and Restricting Visas to China
Although no cases of the virus have been reported in Russia, officials are reportedly preparing to close the 2,600-mile mutual border, according to the Associated Press.