COVID-19 outbreak that has killed hundreds of people in China and has spread to more than 15 other countries across the globe caused the World Health Organisation (WHO) to declare of a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) on Thursday (30 January). This is only the fifth declaration since this has been done in the span of 13 years since the global regulations have been in effect.
What does PHEIC mean?
This declaration implies that the current Wuhan Coronavirus outbreak is serious, unusual or unexpected.
By declaring a public health emergency of international concern, states and cities are required to respond promptly to protect the public health and may also require a “coordinated international response”.
What are the primary reasons behind the declaration?
There were two factors that have been considered:
- Beijing on Thursday (30 January) has reported 38 new deaths in the preceding 24 hours, the highest one-day total since the virus was detected late last year, hence, dubbed the ‘Deadliest Day’.
- The National Health Commissions said that the number of confirmed new cases also grew steadily to 7,711 and another 81,000 people were under observation for possible infection.
What is the greatest concern?
The Novel Coronavirus spread was initially downplayed but its risk assessment was revised after crisis talks. The greatest concern by the WHO was the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker healthcare systems.
What could happen if this outbreak spreads in these more vulnerable countries? Low and middle-income countries lack the funding, equipment, policies, manpower and local capacity to manage it. Plus, taking into account the high population density and living conditions of these countries, it would be very challenging to contain the spread of infection.
The process of providing care in developing countries is often poor and varies widely, a large body of evidence from industrial countries consistently shows variations in the process. There is an urgency of improving health in developing countries.
The Wuhan virus has an 89% similarity to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pathogen which eventually killed nearly 800 people worldwide in 2002-03, the whole world definitely needs to take action of this emergency.
How can we protect our family’s health from this outbreak? Here's everything you need to know about novel coronavirus.
Now, what can we do?
Aside from avoiding sharing misinformation online, we can all do our part to prevent the spread of infection:
- Observe personal hygiene.
- Practise frequent hand washing with soap before handling food or eating, after going to the toilet, or when hands are dirtied by respiratory secretions after coughing or sneezing.
- Be socially responsible, if you are sick, wear a face mask, avoid social contact and visit a doctor as soon as possible.
- When you cough and sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or with your arm (not with your palm).
- Avoid contact with live animals including poultry and birds.
- Cook meat and eggs thoroughly.
- Avoid crowded places and close contact with people who are unwell or showing symptoms of illness.
- If you plan to visit a country where this virus is found such as China, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, South Korea, Taiwan and the United States, be careful and take care of your health.
- Seek medical attention promptly if you are feeling unwell.