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WHO acknowledges Wuhan virus as an international threat

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The WHO chief praised the Chinese authorities’ actions. It has nevertheless been decided to declare an international emergency: PHEIC for short, the English abbreviation for International Emergency in Public Health. “We don’t know what damage this virus could cause in a country with a weaker health system,” he explained at a press conference.

Tedros said to have confidence in China’s ability to control the outbreak. He also stressed that there is no reason to “take measures that unnecessarily disrupt international travel and trade”.

The Director General also came with a series of recommendations. He stated that it is necessary to help countries with weak health systems. The development of vaccines and testing options for the virus must also be accelerated. Tedros also said that the spread of rumors and disinformation about the virus should be prevented.

It is the sixth time that the WHO has granted this status to an emergency in the field of health. A WHO committee determines when the health risks are very exceptional and not tied to one particular country. That committee then initially proposes for a period of three months that the situation must be tackled internationally. It can make recommendations to combat the crisis and Member States are expected to follow it up.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has proclaimed the corona virus an international threat to public health. For such a move, the threat must be not only international, but also very serious, sudden, unusual and unexpected. It is the sixth time that the WHO has raised the alarm in this way.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO says that the number of cases outside of China has remained relatively limited so far. It concerns 98 infections in 18 countries outside of China, where the virus killed at least 213 people, the Chinese Health Commission announced on Friday morning. In the country, 9692 people are now infected with the virus.

The “PHEIC” dates from 2005 and was declared in 2009 (Mexican flu), twice in 2014 (a form of polio and an Ebola outbreak), in 2016 (the Zika virus) and in 2019 (Ebola outbreak). The last time in 2019 the WHO hesitated for a very long time.

The Ebola outbreak in northeastern Congo in 2018 seemed to remain a domestic problem. Moreover, the WHO was afraid that a declaration of a medical emergency would cause a lot of economic damage to the poor Congo.

In 2009 there was a “PHEIC” for an outbreak of swine flu or Mexican flu. The WHO subsequently received criticism, because the outbreak turned out to be better than expected.

In May 2014, the WHO proclaimed an international emergency, following the resurgence in Asia and Africa of a condition that was considered almost contained, a form of polio or child paralysis. In the same year followed a “PHEIC” about an outbreak of Ebola in West Africa that claimed many thousands of lives.

At the beginning of 2016, the WHO released its fourth “PHEIC”. It was an outbreak, especially in Latin America, of the zika virus transmitted by mosquitoes, which is especially dangerous for unborn babies.

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