The WHO-convened emergency committee that met today to determine if the spread of the novel coronavirus first reported during mid-December in Wuhan, China constitutes an Public Health Emergency of International Concern — a PHEIC — will meet again in the morning before reaching a conclusion, WHO officials and committee members announced today.
Citing rapid developments as well as continuing questions surrounding the spread of the virus that that has now crossed a series of national borders via flights from the city, the committee needs more information to determine the international threat the outbreak poses, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
That information includes a more complete understanding of the severity of the virus and how it is transmitted — including the influence of routes and timing of transmission in the speed with which it spreads. At least 17 people of more than 400 confirmed to have it had died of the virus by the time the committee met this morning, with most deaths occurring among older people with additional health concerns.
The committee will consider new data when it meets tomorrow as well as evidence gathered on the ground in Wuhan. While WHO officials today stressed that open communication, cooperation and swift action on the part of Chinese government officials has enabled rapid identification of the virus in the countries where patients have been diagnosed, they also said improved sharing of information would be critical to containing the virus.
A committee also will meet to decide on a name for the virus, currently referred to as 2019-nCoV.