the World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus a global health emergency, an acknowledgement of the risk the virus poses to countries beyond its origin in China and of the need for a more coordinated international response to the outbreak
“This is the time for science, not rumors,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in making the announcement following a meeting of the agency’s emergency committee. “This is the time for solidarity not stigma”
Tedros, as he is called, stressed the decision was not meant to criticize the Chinese response to the outbreak, which he and other WHO officials have gone out of the way to praise. Instead, he said, the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, is meant to help support less developed countries and to try to prevent the virus from spreading in those places that are less equipped to detect the disease and handle cases.What are coronaviruses
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses causing infection in humans and a variety of animals including birds and mammals such as camels, cats and bats. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, which means they can transmit between animals and humans
To date, seven coronaviruses have been shown to also infect and cause illness in humans. When animal coronaviruses evolve, infect people and then spread between humans, it can lead to outbreaks such as what happened with MERS-CoV and SARS. These coronavirus-associated diseases have been less transmissible than influenza but are prone to large localised and healthcare-associated outbreaks
Why should the 2019-nCov virus be closely monitored
The 2019-nCoV identified in China is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified in humans. Outbreaks of novel virus infections among people are always of public health concern, especially when there’s little knowledge about the characteristics of the virus, how it spreads between people, how severe are the resulting infections and how to treat them
What is the source of the outbreak
Although the most likely primary source of this outbreak is of animal origin investigations are ongoing to determine the source and mode of transmission of the 2019-nCoV virus
How severe are the infections caused by 2019-nCoV
This novel coronavirus detected in China is genetically closely related to the 2003 SARS virus and appears to have similar characteristics, although the data available to ECDC for assessing this is very scarce at this stage. From what we know so far, the virus can cause mild, flu-like symptoms as well severe disease. People with existing chronic conditions seem to be more vulnerable to severe illness. Pre-existing conditions reported so far include hypertension and other cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, liver disorders, and other respiratory disease
How deadly is the virus
It is too early in the evolution of this outbreak to provide estimates on case fatality. Most deaths linked to this outbreak correspond to patients that died during the last few days. We need more detailed data to have a better understanding of the severity of this disease
Who should be tested for coronavirus
:Patients with sudden onset of at least one of the following
shortness of breath
:AND in the 14 days prior to onset of symptoms, fulfilled at least one of the following criteria
Had close contact with a 2019-nCoV patient (healthcare associated exposure, working together in close proximity or sharing the same classroom environment, travelling together in any kind of conveyance, living in the same household);
Had a history of travel to areas with ongoing community transmission of 2019-nCoV;
Worked in or attended a healthcare facility where patients with 2019-nCoV infections were being treated.
What is the mode of transmission? How easily does it spread
Authorities in China confirmed human-to-human transmission of this virus, including among healthcare workers. ECDC doesn’t have enough epidemiological information to determine the extent of this human-to-human transmission. However, we can expect case numbers and numbers of deaths in China to increase over the coming days. Further global spread is likely
What is the significance of health workers being affected
The fact that healthcare workers are exposed to sick people puts them at a particular risk of being affected. Infections among these professionals are one of the early indicators of human to human transmission.
What is the difference between limited human to human and sustained human to human transmission?
Limited human to human transmission happens when people get infected after close contact with the bodily fluids (blood, stool, urine, saliva, semen) of infected persons. When there is sustained human to human transmission, the virus spreads easily from one person to another and further onward, and is not limited to limited groups or people living or working in close proximity to one another, such as family members or co-workers
What are the symptoms and treatment options
According to current knowledge, the clinical signs and symptoms of 2019-nCoV disease include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing, with the radiological findings of pneumonia. Patients can present with mild, moderate, or severe illness including severe pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sepsis and septic shock.
There is no specific treatment for this disease so the clinical approach is based on the patient’s clinical condition. Supportive care (e.g. supportive therapy and monitoring – oxygen therapy, fluid management, antivirals) for infected persons can be highly effective
There are currently no vaccines against coronaviruses
Cases have reached Europe: what now
If cases are detected in a timely manner and rigorous infection control measures are applied, the likelihood of sustained human-to-human transmission in community settings in the EU/EEA is low. Systematic implementation of infection prevention and control measures were effective in controlling SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV
Nevertheless, global spread and further importation to Europe is likely. Since the source of the virus remains unknown and human-to-human transmission is documented, further cases and deaths are not unexpected
Are European countries ready and well-equipped to face this outbreak
Most countries in Europe have plans and measures in place to contain this kind of infections. However, both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV have been linked to nosocomial outbreaks or super-spreading events, therefore strict infection prevention and control should be applied for the management of persons under investigation and confirmed cases
What is ECDC doing
ECDC is monitoring this event and providing risk assessments to guide EU Member States and the EU Commission in their response activities.
The outbreak investigations are ongoing and ECDC will provide updated guidance and information as it becomes available