World Health Organization declares coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), talks to the media at the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Keystone via AP)

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UPDATED 3:13 PM PT — Thursday, January 30, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) is declaring an international emergency in response to the deadly coronavirus outbreak. On Thursday, the organization panel announced the fast spreading disease, which has infected more than 8,200 people across the world, is now a global health emergency.

Since it emerged less than a month ago, the coronavirus has resulted in at least 170 deaths and has spread from China to more than a dozen other countries.

“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” explained WHO Director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The greatest concern is for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, which are ill prepared to deal with it.”

According to officials, the declaration does not mean the agency has a vote of no confidence in China. The announcement was intended to help the agency mobilize financial and political support to contain the outbreak.

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway, center, Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, M.D., left, and U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy director James Carroll speak about opioids with reporters in the Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

White House officials have downplayed the threat posed by the Chinese coronavirus. On Thursday, Assistant Public Health Secretary Brett Giroir said the federal government is monitoring the virus’ spread.

“This is no cause for urgent panic in any way in the United States,” stated Giroir. “This is currently under control.”

The secretary said screening procedures and medical teams are currently in place at U.S. airports to prevent new cases of the coronavirus from spreading. He added officials are taking proactive measures to contain the threat.

“Really, this is a dynamic, rapidly changing event. The news can change at any given moment. But the resources are deployed, the government’s mobilized and we feel confident. We have good diagnostics now by the CDC. The (National Institutes of Health) NIH already has candidate vaccines as well as many other individuals.” – Adm. Brett Giroir, Assistant Secretary of Public Health

The virus has already affected almost 8,000 people worldwide and claimed 170 lives, but its global spread has slowed in recent days.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar speaks at a news conference, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020, in Washington, about the federal government’s response to a virus outbreak originating in China that has has sickened thousands of people and killed more than 100. Standing with Azar are, from left, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease Director Nancy Messonnier and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Earlier the same day, the CDC confirmed the nation’s first person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus. The new patient was said to be the spouse of the Chicago woman who brought the infection back from Wuhan, China.

Illinois health officials said the new patient, a male in his 60’s, has some underlying medical conditions, but is currently in good condition. The other patient is doing well, but remains in isolation at a local hospital.

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