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Author: Tan KW   |   Latest post: Tue, 25 Feb 2020, 9:32 AM

 

WHO expert panel to decide whether new virus an emergency

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GENEVA - A World Health Organisation panel of experts on the new coronavirus met on Wednesday to evaluate whether the outbreak, which has spread from China to several countries, constitutes an international emergency. [nL4N29R10X]

The 16 independent experts in disease control, virology, epidemiology and vaccine development held a closed-door meeting at the U.N. agency's Geneva headquarters.

Didier Houssin, an adviser to France's national health security agency, was selected as chair. Chinese health authorities were to make a presentation by teleconference.

A news briefing is tentatively set for Wednesday at 1800 GMT.

Here are some facts about WHO Emergency Committees:

- Director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced on Monday that the WHO had called an Emergency Committee to assess the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) that began in the Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of last year.

- Declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern - known as a "PHEIC" in WHO jargon - is rare.

- The WHO panel's recommendations, after assessing any evidence of human-to-human transmission and other factors, would have to be accepted by Tedros, who would declare an emergency.

- Only five emergencies have been declared in the past decade: the H1 virus that caused an influenza pandemic (2009), West Africa's Ebola outbreak, polio (2014), Zika virus (2016), and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (2019).

- The WHO's criteria, laid out in the 2005 International Health Regulations, define a PHEIC as "an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other states through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response".

- Such situations are "serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected", carry cross-border implications and may require immediate international action, its rules say.

- A declaration would lead to boosting public health measures, funding and resources to prevent and reduce international spread.

- It could include recommendations on trade and travel, including airport screening of passengers, although the WHO generally aims to avoid disruptive trade restrictions.

 


  - Reuters

 

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