Deadlocked WHO panel puts off decision on global virus alarm

Marco Green
January 23, 2020

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says coronavirus has been added as a designated disease reportable under the province's public health legislation.

Wuhan city officials reportedly ordered city buses and boats to temporarily stop operating.

Li said she will be in China for 10 days and is more concerned about going through airports, given the number of people passing through them, some of whom might have been to areas affected by the outbreak.

The WHO says that the outbreak in Wuhan was caused by a previously unknown type of coronavirus, which is a broad family ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars).

At this point, officials are working on the assumption that the virus emerged from human exposure to wild animals being traded, possibly illegally, at a seafood market in Wuhan.

"We are very interested in this virus because we want to be able to, like we did successfully with the SARS coronavirus, stamp it out, drive it back into nature so that it can not become another coronavirus that's established itself in the human population".

The Wuhan infection belongs to the same family of coronaviruses that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which claimed the lives of almost 800 people globally during the 2002/03 outbreak.

According to sources, China's National Health Commission (NHC) had confirmed 291 cases till Monday, January 20, 2020. "How quickly, how readily it goes from human-to-human is still being established", de Villa said.

Professor Neil Ferguson from Imperial College London said the death rate of the virus was similar to the Spanish flu in 1918. The same day, the CDC announces that it will begin screening passengers arriving from Wuhan at three airports: San Francisco, New York's JFK and Los Angeles.

It comes as the World Health Organization (WHO) will also consider on Wednesday whether to declare an global public health emergency over the virus - as it did with swine flu and Ebola.

The WHO's emergency committee will decide tomorrow whether or not to declare the infection a public health emergency.

"If concerns are raised, health providers will ensure that a patient is not in close contact with other patients, and will connect with infectious disease experts and public health to consult on next steps", the provincial statement said.

Airports around the world have increased screening of visitors from Wuhan.

For those heading back to Canada after the celebrations, Dr. Eileen de Villa, medical officer of health for the City of Toronto, said her first advice to those who are unwell is to avoid contact with other people. Health authorities have identified cases in people traveling from Wuhan to countries including Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and, as of Tuesday, the United States. About 80% of the cases are in Wuhan, where the first patient sought care on 12 December 2019 and a cluster initially was linked to a large animal market there.

Chinese health officials have confirmed it has spread between humans, warning that it may mutate to become even deadlier.

Mexico was investigating a possible case also. And North Korea has banned all foreign visitors. He said there are three criteria to decide whether the coronavirus is a global health emergency: the outbreak must be an extraordinary event, there must be a risk of worldwide spread and an worldwide response is required.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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