WHO declares coronavirus a public health emergency

While the threat to Americans is still purportedly low, international travel is still limited to and from China.

Following the outbreak of a new virus from China, the World Health Organization has declared the virus a global health emergency. This virus, a coronavirus that is said to have originated in Wuhan, China, is causing anxiety from nations across the world about a possible international public health threat. Because there is room for speculation and misinformation, here are the facts we can establish for sure.
A coronavirus is a virus that usually causes disease in animals, but can evolve and infect humans, causing respiratory infections and in rare cases, pneumonia and death. In late 2019, several citizens of Wuhan developed pneumonia with no discernible cause and for which existing vaccines were not effective. The virus was discovered to be able to spread from person to person, and the symptoms of the virus were not immediately visible.

Because Wuhan is an enormous city with an average of 3,500 passengers flying out of the city per day, the virus could have easily spread to many places unknowingly. On Jan. 9, the first death from this virus occurred.

Since the outbreak, China’s actions in banning travel to and from the country and implementing other quarantine methods have helped to secure the spreading of the virus. Many New Years events and tourist attractions have been closed all around China, with citizens staying in their homes in fear of transmitting the disease. The leader of Hong Kong has announced an emergency, closing schools until mid-February and cancelling all of the city’s New Year celebrations.

Now, nearly 60 million people have been under partial or full lockdown in China. There are only 140 cases of the coronavirus outside of China, six of which have been identified in the United States: three in Santa Clara, Los Angeles and Orange County in California, one in Snohomish County, Washington, one in Maricopa County, Arizona, and a husband and wife in Chicago, Illinois, with many more unconfirmed, such as with a Tulsan student at ORU who is currently in quarantine after having arrived from a trip to China. In total, the number of total cases is over 15,000, with over 300 deaths in total, all in China.

Countries like Sweden and Germany have found one case of the coronavirus, and more are discovering their first case each week. And most recently, on Jan. 30, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern for the virus.

Along with the declaration, the WHO has released information on the disease’s mortality rate, as well as other insightful information. According to the WHO, the mortality rate is probably less than 3%, which is much less than that of Severely Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a mirroring disease that broke out in China in 2003, and has been contained.
The WHO has so far praised China’s efforts in containing the disease, although researchers have criticized China’s decision to not admit international experts who could aid in stopping the disease. A vaccine is approximately a year away, officials say.

Because of the alleged low mortality rate and the extremely low percentage of United States cases, as well as the extreme measures being taken to screen new arrivals into the country, the threat to the safety of Americans still remains low.

The United States has also declared an emergency for the virus and has issued a “Level 4 Travel Advisory” for China, meaning that citizens are strongly encouraged to cancel all non-urgent flights to the country. Those arriving to the United States from the Hubei province in China within 14 days will face 14 days of quarantine, while passengers from other provinces will be asked to self-quarantine.

Amidst this news, the University of Tulsa sent out an advisory message for students in acknowledgement of the virus, as well as the upcoming flu season. Additionally, Vice Provost for Global Engagement Jane Kucko warned students wishing to study abroad in the country that they are restricted from doing so, as per TU policy.

Students are encouraged to continue and emphasize practicing healthy habits, such as washing your hands frequently, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and staying hydrated.

Post Author: Alex Leeper