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The World Health Organization Declares the 2019 Novel Coronavirus a “Public Health Emergency”

Last Thursday, the Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) made an unexpected announcement: the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus is now a “public health emergency of international concern.”

Since its founding in 1948, the WHO has only declared this type of emergency five other times for similar outbreaks including the Zika virus scare in 2016 and the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year.

The WHO makes it clear that this statement of global emergency doesn’t reflect doubts about China’s ability to contain the 2019 novel coronavirus; rather, it’s based on uncertainty as to whether countries with “weaker health systems” have the resources to potentially do so.

The WHO’s declaration reflects widespread panic taking place across the globe. And for what appears to be good reason; it feels as if every day the number of people infected is growing by the thousands. What began as a few cases of what appeared to be pneumonia in Wuhan, China now presents as a highly transmissible disease with 564 confirmed deaths in China and over 28,000 confirmed cases worldwide. And the fact that we’re in the middle of flu season and there could be a possible shortage of medical face masks in the United States only adds to growing public distress.

This almost universal alarm has led handfuls of strangers to walk outside with medical masks strewn across their faces. Bustling streets throughout China are now deserted. But fortunately, it has also prompted the hurried work of scientists around the world to  develop a vaccine for the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV for short). It’s been confirmed that China is preparing a potential vaccination for human trials, while the United States is in a similar situation with hopes to administer such a vaccine by the end of 2020.

Luckily, the CDC claims that the “immediate health risk” from 2019-nCoV is considered low for the average American. Hopefully, the new strain of the coronavirus will soon be contained along with public panic.

Featured image via Pikrepo.

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