The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the new coronavirus outbreak a global emergency amid the recent jump in the number of infected patients.

“The main reason is not what is happening in China but what is happening in other countries,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced at a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Source

Original story is below.

World health officials expressed “great concern” yesterday that a dangerous new virus has spread between people outside of China, a troubling development as countries frantically work to contain the outbreak.

For a second day, the number of infections grew dramatically. The new virus has now infected more people in China than were sickened there during the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak. Yesterday, the number of cases jumped to 5974, surpassing the 5327 people diagnosed with SARS.

The death toll, which rose to 170 yesterday, is still less than half the number who died in China from SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.

In a report published yesterday, Chinese researchers suggested that person-to-person spread among close contacts occurred as early as mid-December. Based on the first 425 confirmed cases, the researchers estimate that each infection led to 2.2 others on average. That’s a bit more than ordinary flu but far less than some other respiratory diseases such as whooping cough and tuberculosis. The rate for SARS, a cousin to this new virus, was estimated to be three.

“Considerable efforts” will be needed to control the spread if this ratio holds up elsewhere, researchers wrote in the report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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More than half of the cases in which symptoms began before January 1 were tied to a seafood market, but only 8 per cent of cases after that have been, researchers found. They reported the average incubation period was five days.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation’s emergencies chief said the few cases of human-to-human spread of the virus outside China — in Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam — were of “great concern” and were part of the reason the UN health agency’s director-general was reconvening a committee of experts today to assess whether the outbreak should be declared a global emergency.

To date, about 99 per cent of the nearly 6000 cases are in China. Ryan estimated the death rate of the new virus at 2 per cent, but said the figure was very preliminary. With fluctuating numbers of cases and deaths, scientists are only able to produce a rough estimate of the fatality rate and it’s likely many milder cases of the virus are being missed. In comparison, the SARS virus killed about 10 per cent of people who caught it.

Airlines around the world announced they were cutting flights to China, and Hong Kong was suspending rail travel to and from the mainland at midnight.

The number of cases in China rose to 1459 from the previous day, a smaller increase than the 1771 new cases reported Tuesday. Australia, Finland and Singapore were among those reporting new cases, as the number outside China topped 70. The vast majority are people who came from Wuhan.—AP

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