American experts to join WHO delegation in China to study coronavirus

American experts to join WHO delegation in China to study coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) could send a delegation of international health experts to China as soon as this week to work on the coronavirus outbreak.

China will allow American experts to join the delegation despite frustrations expressed by WHO and the Chinese government over the U.S. response to the coronavirus.

“China has accepted the United States’ offer to incorporate a group of experts into a World Health Organization mission to China to learn more about and combat the virus,” a spokesperson with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told The Hill.

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The department submitted names of federal health experts to WHO for inclusion in the expert list.

"WHO is now awaiting feedback on the list from China," the spokesperson added.

A WHO spokesperson said the delegation would possibly go this week to “work with Chinese counterparts on increasing understanding of the outbreak to guide global response efforts.

“Both China and WHO agreed on this mission.”

The spokesperson did not say which countries the experts would be from, but noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “could be part of it.”

Chinese officials had previously rejected offers from the U.S. government to assist with the coronavirus.

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Both Chinese and WHO officials have criticized the Trump administration’s decision to ban foreign nationals from entering the country if they had recently traveled to China.

“There is no reason for measures that unnecessarily interfere with international travel and trade,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Monday.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, defended America's reaction on Tuesday.

“We made an aggressive decision in front of an unprecedented threat,” she said. “These actions are science-based and aimed at protecting the health and safety of all Americans.”

She added that the response to the virus in China could be strengthened by the CDC’s involvement.

“I think that we at CDC have incredibly strong scientists who have a lot of technical experience with similar diseases,” Messonnier said.

“Our presence on the ground in China would be a help to folks in China trying to unravel this thing,” she said.

The virus has sickened more than 17,000 in China since December. Cases outside of China continue to be relatively low.

 

In all, there are 151 cases outside of China, according to the WHO.

“If it weren’t for China’s efforts, the number of cases outside China would have been very much higher, and it still could be but we have the opportunity now to work aggressively to prevent that from happening,” Tedros said.

The CDC has confirmed 11 cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. Nine of the patients had recently traveled in China. The other two patients contracted the virus from their spouses, who had recently traveled to China.

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Messonnier reiterated Monday that the CDC is expecting more person-to-person spread of the virus in the U.S. 

The U.S. Government has stepped up its screening of entries into the U.S.

American citizens can continue entering the U.S. from Hubei province — the epicenter of the outbreak — but may be quarantined for up to 14 days in a facility. 

Other American citizens who have traveled in mainland China but not in Hubei may be self-quarantined in their homes. 

The CDC is currently quarantining 195 Americans in California that were evacuated from China last week.

More flights will arrive this week, but the CDC has not said how many Americans are expected. 

"We are preparing as if this were the next pandemic," Messonnier said. 

Updated at 4:17 pm.