The new, fast-spreading Coronavirus has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization, with more than 75,000 confirmed cases in less than three months— over 2,100 people have already died.
This is the sixth time such an ‘international health emergency’ has been declared, with past examples including the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 and 2019, Swine Flu in 2009, Polio in 2014, and Zika in 2016.
World Health Organization (WHO) reserves the designation for “extraordinary events” that pose severe public health risks by threatening to spread internationally.
As of 20 February 2020, 75,775 cases have been confirmed, including in all provinces of China and more than two dozen other countries. Of these, 11,795 cases are critical.
In China, the daily increase in new cases peaked between 23 and 27 January.
There have been 2,130 deaths attributable to the disease, including 11 outside mainland China— nearly triple the fatalities in the 2003 SARS outbreak.
However, a dashboard by Johns Hopkins University, which tracks cases of the new Coronavirus infections by drawing data from several official sources including the WHO as well as China’s National Health Commission, suggests the figures are far higher.
On Thursday, Feb 20, China’s national health commission said in a statement that 394 new cases had been confirmed in the past 24 hours, down from 1,749 the previous day.
The outbreak has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by WHO and health officials have been working to contain the spread of the disease.
To curb further spreading, China has introduced travel restrictions, quarantines, and outdoor restrictions—requiring families to stay indoors—affecting over 170 million people.
Dozens of countries have issued warnings against traveling to Wuhan, Hubei, or China generally. Train stations and Airports have implemented body temperature check-ups, health declarations, and information signage in an attempt to identify carriers of the virus.
Those infected may be asymptomatic or have mild to severe symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and diarrhea. Upper respiratory symptoms, such as sneezing, a runny nose, and sore throat, are less frequent.
The time from exposure to onset of symptoms is estimated at 2 to 10 days by WHO and 2 to 14 days by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Cases of severe infection can result in pneumonia, kidney failure, and death. Among 137 early cases that were admitted to hospitals in Hubei province, 16 (12 percent) individuals died.
Many of those who died had other conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, or cardiovascular disease that impaired their immune systems.
As of 20 February 2020, the numbers of severe cases were 12,063 (16 percent) out of 75,775, with 16,345 having recovered the deadly disease.