Well-Being Prevention & Cures

WHO declares public health emergency amid coronavirus outbreak

getty World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus

Story at a glance

  • WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised China’s efforts to curb the outbreak.
  • WHO officials say they are concerned with the virus spreading to weaker, ill prepared countries.
  • At least 170 confirmed dead in China, with Chinese authorities reporting more than 8,000 infected.

The World Health Organization is declaring the deadly coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. 

The declaration acknowledges the virus is a risk beyond China, where it originated last month.

“We must all act together to limit further spread,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a news conference.

“Let me be clear, this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China, on the contrary, WHO has confidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak,” Tedros said. The director-general noted that officials are concerned about the coronavirus spreading to other countries that are not prepared to deal with the outbreak. 

The declaration gives WHO certain capabilities to ramp up the response of governments and organizations around the globe who are rushing to contain the illness in several ways, including sending the message to the world that the outbreak is indeed a serious health emergency. 

Tedros congratulated the Chinese government for its response to contain the outbreak, adding that the world would have seen many more cases and deaths outside China by now if not for its “unprecedented response.”

The coronavirus has left at least 170 dead and Chinese authorities reported more than 8,000 have been infected across mainland China. The flu-like virus has been confirmed in at least 18 countries outside China with 98 cases, including eight person-to-person transmissions, including one in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday confirmed the first case of the coronavirus spreading from one person in Illinois.

All of the U.S. cases recorded so far had been from travelers returning to the U.S. from China, where the virus originated. But the CDC on Thursday said a patient in Chicago contracted the coronavirus from his spouse, who had recently traveled to China.