#WHO; #Coronavirus; #GlobalHealthEmergency; #PHEIC
Geneva, Jan 30 (Canadian-Media): The World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak of a novel coronavirus a global health emergency, an acknowledgement of the risk the virus poses to countries beyond its origin in China and of the need for a more coordinated international response to the outbreak, WHO news release reported.
Coronavirus. Image credit: Twitter handle
In making the announcement, WHO leaders urged countries not to restrict travel or trade to China, even as some have shut down borders and limited visas.
“This is the time for science, not rumors,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said following a meeting of the agency’s emergency committee. “This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.”
Tedros, as he is called, stressed the decision was not meant to criticize the Chinese response to the outbreak, which he and other WHO officials have gone out of the way to praise. Instead, he said, the declaration of a public health emergency of international concern, or PHEIC, is meant to help support less developed countries and to try to prevent the virus from spreading in those places that are less equipped to detect the disease and handle infections.
“We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it spread in a country with a weaker health system,” Tedros said.
Last week, the committee had recommended that a PHEIC not be declared yet because of limited spread of the virus outside of China. Tedros reconvened the committee this week because some other countries, including Japan, Germany, Vietnam, and, as of Thursday, the United States, had reported limited human-to-human transmission of the virus — a warning sign that the virus could start circulating more broadly outside China.
Members of the emergency committee had previously been divided over whether to recommend Tedros declare a PHEIC. Those opposed seemed to want to see if China’s efforts to control the outbreak could prevent broader worldwide transmission. Some 99% of the global cases have been in China, and the large majority of infections in other countries have been in people who picked up the virus while in China and then traveled to the other nations.
Didier Houssin, who leads the committee, said members on Thursday “almost unanimously” backed the PHEIC because of the rise in cases in China, the number of countries outside of China — now 18 — with cases, and what he called “questionable measures” taken by countries in their travel policies toward China.
As of Thursday morning, there have been more than 7,800 confirmed coronavirus infections around the world, all but 98 of which were in China. There have been 170 deaths, all in China. Infections caused by the coronavirus, provisionally called 2019-nCoV, were first reported in December in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, though it’s possible the virus was spreading among people there before then.
The declaration comes as individual countries have started to close borders and restrict trade to China, and as airlines have halted some flights. Experts say such measures are not effective in stopping the spread of a virus and may discourage countries experiencing outbreaks from being forthright. The PHEIC gave Tedros the authority to formally recommend that countries not limit travel and trade to China, though other nations do not have to comply.
Still, the PHEIC could rally some global coordination for a more unified response. Dr. Michael Ryan, the WHO’s emergency chief, told reporters Wednesday that 194 countries implementing unilateral trade and travel restrictions was an economic, political, and social “recipe for disaster.”
Tedros on Thursday said more important than the PHEIC declaration were the recommendations from the emergency committee, which included speeding the development of vaccines and therapeutics, combating misinformation, and supporting countries with weaker health systems.
“The only way we will defeat this outbreak is for all countries to work together in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation,” Tedros said. “We are all in this together and we can only stop it together.”
So far, there have been no confirmed cases of the virus anywhere in Africa. But public health experts worry that countries there may not be as equipped to detect cases and control the potential transmission of the virus as many countries with stronger health infrastructure. China has made huge investments in Africa in recent years, with increasing travel back and forth; experts fear that the virus could easily move to the continent from China.
Also Thursday, the WHO said it plans on provisionally calling the disease caused by the virus “2019-nCoV acute respiratory disease” until officials settle on a name.
WHO officials stressed that they and national health officials around the world had still mounted a wide-reaching and aggressive response to the outbreak. At a press conference Wednesday, they seemed to lament that so much attention was paid to the binary of whether something was a PHEIC or not a PHEIC. Tedros said he wished it was more like a stop light, with yellow serving as a warning.
It’s seen as “PHEIC, no PHEIC, either green or red,” Tedros said. “I think we have to revise that. It would be good to have the green, the yellow, and then the red, something in between. … There could be some intermediate situation.”
China has taken unprecedented steps to try to contain the outbreak, quarantining tens of millions of people in Wuhan and other cities by shutting down travel within, to, and from the areas. Experts, however, say, it’s not clear such massive efforts are likely to prove effective, given that the virus seems to be spreading in many locations in China and that the lockdowns could keep or drive people away from seeking care if they are sick.
There have been some questions about China’s response, including whether it was equipped for such an outbreak, it has documented all deaths from the virus, and it has been forthcoming about when the virus started spreading among people. But WHO officials have repeatedly lauded the country’s response. On Thursday, Tedros said that were it not for China’s efforts, “we would have seen many more cases outside China by now.”
In the United States, officials have been screening passengers arriving from Wuhan for signs of illness and informing them to call a health care provider if they start to get sick. (Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said the number of people arriving from Wuhan has dropped since China imposed the travel ban from there, but that they were continuing with their screening policies.) The CDC has also boosted surveillance at 20 entry points where officials are normally based in case an arriving traveler shows signs of a disease.
There had been five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, all related to travel to China. But just hours before the WHO declared the PHEIC, the CDC announced that one of those people — a woman in Illinois — had passed the virus on to her husband. U.S. officials had anticipated an incidence of such limited transmission and are working to prevent any broader spread of the virus.
WHO officials have said if sustained transmission of the virus occurs outside China, it becomes much harder to stop overall.
The virus can cause severe cases of pneumonia and milder cases of cough and fever, according to studies of early infections in Wuhan. It’s likely that authorities have not been able to keep track of many mild cases, including people who were not sick enough to seek care, and researchers have documented cases of the virus in people showing no symptoms.
It’s not clear if people need to be showing symptoms to pass the virus on, though even if asymptomatic people can spread the virus, they may be less likely to than people who are sneezing and coughing — routes for the virus to jump from one person to another.
Coronaviruses, a family that includes SARS and MERS, are thought to originate in bats and can jump from there or another animal to humans. Many of the early cases in Wuhan — though not all — were tied to a seafood market that also sold live animals for meat.
The emergence of a global coronavirus outbreak from China is reminiscent of the SARS outbreak of 2002 to 2003, which went on to kill nearly 800 people. The PHEIC designation was created following an update to the International Health Regulations after that outbreak.
The first PHEIC was declared for the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, and others have included the 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak and the Zika outbreak in 2016. The WHO set up an emergency committee to assess whether MERS should be declared a PHEIC, but it concluded after meeting several times that the disease did not constitute a global health emergency.
Ahead of WHO’s decision Thursday, there were two active PHEICs: the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the continued transmission of polio.
#China; #Coronavirus; #132Deaths, #MoreThan6000Infected, #Evacuation; #WHO
Wuhan (China), Jan 29 (Canadian-Media): After the deaths of 132 people and infected more than 6,000 -- surpassed that of the 2003 SARS outbreak -- due to coronavirus, in the Chinese hardest city, several countries have started moving their citizens out of the Chinese city, media reports said.
Coronavirus. Image credit: Twitter handle
Dozens of infections have been confirmed outside China, including cases in: Taiwan, Australia, Cambodia, France, Germany, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, the U.S. and Canada, Gulf state.
Two hospitals are being built by Wuhan to add 2,500 beds for treatment of virus patients in a matter of days.
A Japanese flight carrying 206 evacuees home was also bringing 20,000 face masks, which are in short supply in China.
An American flight also carried Americans who had been in Wuhan landed in Anchorage, Alaska, Tuesday evening, where they will be rescreened for the virus.
250 Canadians living in China had registered online with Global Affairs Canada, with about 126 requesting consular assistance to get home, said Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.
Italy and The United Kingdom, South Korea, France, Mongolia and other governments also planned evacuations.
On Tuesday, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) met with Xi Jinping, Chinese leader to discuss the latest information on the outbreak and said in a news release,
"Stopping the spread of this virus both in China and globally is WHO's highest priority," Tedros said.
#WorldLeprosyDay; #UN; #UNHealth; #WHO; #EndDiscrination
New York, Jan 26 (Canadian-Media): Governments must put an end to the informal segregation and institutionalized neglect of hundreds of thousands of women and children affected by leprosy, an independent UN human rights expert said on Sunday, World Leprosy Day, UN media release reported today.
World Leprosy Day. Image credit: Leprosy.org
“Too many women and children affected by leprosy – also known as Hansen's disease – are victims of stereotypes, physical and verbal abuse, delays of diagnosis and lack of adequate care”, declared Alice Cruz, UN Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.
The UN expert expressed concern over the “complete lack of specific plans by States to address the particular needs of women and children affected by leprosy and to end discrimination and violence against them”.
Citing institutional reasons, Ms. Cruz’s last report said that too many cases of women and children who are affected, go under reported.
Although their immature immune systems appear to be more prone to leprosy, some 10 to 20 per cent of children stop taking medicines because available treatments are simply not appropriate for their age.
Moreover, almost half of affected women experience depression and/or suicidal thoughts.
“Affected people are not only those left furthest behind, they are actively being kept out of the agenda, out of history,” she said.
Discriminatory practices endure
Affected people and their families have been “systematically subjected to dehumanization in different cultural backdrops”, according to Ms. Cruz.
“Stigmatization remains institutionalized in the States’ architecture and functioning”, she said, noting that over 50 countries have hundreds of discriminatory laws against leprosy-affected people.
The UN expert welcomed improvements in the response of some Governments, including in awareness-raising activities, campaigns to improve detection and early diagnosis, and access to treatment.
Nevertheless, she regretted that too many States with high incidence rates and discriminatory laws did not reply to her requests for visits or had they yet arranged a visit, months after they accepted her request.
“States must abolish all discriminatory laws and implement the Principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members,” Ms. Cruz said, also calling for more inclusion of leprosy-affected women and children in the decision-making processes impacting their lives.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. They are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
#HongKong; #StateOfEmergencyDueToCoronavirus; Coronavirus; #StateOfEmergency
Hong Kong, Jan 25 (Canadian-Media): A state of emergency has been declared in Hong Kong due to the five cases of the new illness and to close primary and secondary schools for two more weeks after the Lunar New Year holiday, media reports said.
Image: Coronavirus. Image credit: Twitter handle
The outbreak of Coronavirus which began in Wuhan in central China had spread to the rest of the country and overseas.
A marathon in Hong Kong expected to draw 70,000 participants on Feb. 9 has been cancelled.
Expansion of transportation bans has been extended to 16 cities, with three more added Saturday, holding a population of more than 50 million people suffering from the virus.
Chinese authorities have cancelled a host of Lunar New Year events, and closed major tourist sites and movie theatre.
Australia and France have announced people infected with virus.
Growing economic fears due to the widening crisis caused slumping of stocks and shares Friday on Wall Street, The Dow Jones, S&P 500, health care companies, along with those in financial institutions, airlines and other tourism and travel industry businesses.
Medical teams are being brought from outside Hubei to help handle the outbreak.
Ongoing Coordination efforts going on by the Ministry of Commerce to supply more than 2 million masks and other products from elsewhere in the country.
Wuhan will build a second dedicated hospital with 1,300 beds after the completion of the first 1,000 bed hospital.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention said it is expecting more Americans to be diagnosed with the virus.
Still, "CDC believes that the immediate risk to the American public continues to be low at this time, but the situation continues to evolve rapidly," said the agency's Dr. Nancy Messonnier.
#UN; #Coronavirus; #EmergencyInChina; #PreparationToPreven&TreatVirus; #PHEIC
Geneva, Jan 23 (Canadian-Media): The head of the UN health agency, WHO (World Health Organization), declared on Thursday that the respiratory disease Novel Coronavirus, is not yet an official Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), but warned that is an emergency in China.
Image: PHEIC. Image credit: Twitter handle of UN
However, after two days of deliberations, the WHO Emergency Committee, which advises the head of the agency, was divided on whether to declare a PHEIC.
The disease has spread rapidly to several countries including Japan, Singapore and the USA, and Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO, said in a press conference held in Geneva on Thursday that the outbreak poses a “very high risk” in China, as well as regionally and globally.
‘There’s still a lot we don’t know'
Mr. Tedros outlined the known facts about Novel Coronavirus. It causes severe diseases, he said, and it can kill, but in most cases, it causes milder symptoms: “We know that among those infected, one quarter of patients have experienced severe disease and that it can kill. We know that most of those who have died had underlying health conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease, that weakened their immune systems.
“We know that there is human-to-human transmission in China, but for now it appears limited to family groups and health workers caring for infected patients. At this time there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't happen”.
Mr. Tedros said that as of Thursday evening, 584 cases have now been reported to WHO, including 17 deaths. The vast majority of cases (575) have been reported in China.
Cases have also been reported in Japan, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Thailand, the United States of America and Vietnam, with further possible cases being investigated in other countries; among them, the United Kingdom.
‘Working night and day’
The WHO chief acknowledged that there are still many unknown factors: “We don't know the source of this virus. We don't understand how easily it spreads and we don't fully understand its clinical features or severity.
WHO is working with our partners night and day in China and the other affected countries at the regional level, and here at headquarters, to fill the gaps in our knowledge as quickly as possible”.
More cases are expected in China, despite the actions taken by the Chinese authorities to control the outbreak. The country has succeeded in isolating and sequencing the virus, and has shared those genetic sequences with WHO and the international community.
The WHO chief warned, that the agency’s decision should not be taken as a sign that it is doing nothing: “WHO is following this outbreak every minute of every day. At a country, regional and global level, we're working to prevent human to human transmission.
“We have provided guidance to all countries for the rapid identification, management and containment of the virus based on the sequence we've got from China. We're coordinating our networks of global experts. We're working to advance the development of diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines. We are completely committed”.
Committee could meet again ‘in a matter of days’
A statement released by WHO soon after the press conference, noted that the Committee members agree on the urgency of the situation, and suggested the Committee should be reconvened “in a matter of days” to examine the situation further.
The Committee made a number of recommendations regarding measures to control the outbreak. Its members advised WHO to provide information to the international community via an international multidisciplinary operation, in order to enhance understanding of the situation and its public health impact.
The Chinese authorities were encouraged in the statement to provide more information on the ways they are managing the risk of further cases, and to work with the WHO and other partners to better understand the evolution of the outbreak.
All countries, recommends the Committee, should be prepared to contain the virus, through active surveillance, early detection, isolation, case management, and prevention of onward spread of infection, and to share full data with WHO.
A comprehensive list of the Committee’s advice and recommendations can be found in the WHO statement.
#UN; #EndingAid; #UNAIDS; #Poverty; #Women&GirlsVulnerable; #TaxAvoidance; #AfricanDebtBurden; #AfricanDebtBurden;
United Nations, Jan 23 (Canadian-Media): The UN agency devoted to ending AIDS as a public health threat is calling on top politicians and governments across the world to ensure the right to quality healthcare is upheld, and not just a privilege to be enjoyed by the wealthy, UN news release said.
In a press release issued as the World Economic Forum gets fully underway in Davos, Switzerland, on Tuesday, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima said that the right to health “is eluding the poor and people trying to lift themselves out of poverty are being crushed by the unacceptably high costs of health care”, with at least half the world’s population unable to access essential health services.
“The richest one per cent benefit from cutting-edge science while the poor struggle to get even basic health care,” she added.
The independent international Forum (WEF) in Davos is an annual gathering, committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic and other leaders in reshaping the economic agenda.
100 million pushed into extreme poverty
Every two minutes a woman dies while giving birth, said the agency, with vulnerable women, adolescents, people living with HIV, gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, people who inject drugs, transgender people, migrants, refugees and the poor, among the billions being left behind.
Nearly 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty (defined as living on $1.90 or less a day) because they have to pay for health care, and more than 930 million people - around 12% of the world’s population - spend at least 10% of their household budgets on health care, said UNAIDS.
In many countries, people are denied health care or receive poor quality health care because of unaffordable user fees. Stigma and discrimination denies poor and vulnerable people, especially women, their right to health.
Women and girls most vulnerable
Every week, 6,000 young women around the world continue to become infected with HIV. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, four out of five new HIV infections among adolescents are recorded among girls, and AIDS-related illnesses are the biggest killer of women of reproductive age in the region. Despite significant progress in reducing AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections, there were 1.7 million new HIV infections in 2018 and nearly 15 million people are still waiting to receive HIV treatment.
“Publicly financed health care is the greatest equalizer in society” said Ms Byanyima. “When health spending is cut or inadequate, it is poor people and people on the margins of society, especially women and girls, who lose their right to health first, and they have to bear the burden of caring for their families.”
Governments must do better
Delivering health care for all is a political choice that too many governments are not making, said the agency. For example, Thailand has managed to reduced mortality rates for children under the age of five, to 9.1 per 1000 live births, while in the United States of America the rate is 6.3 per 1000 live births, even though Thailand’s gross domestic product per capita is about one tenth of that of the United States.
That success can be attributed to Thailand’s publicly financed health-care system that entitles every Thai citizen essential health services at all life stages and leaves no one behind, UNAIDS maintains.
South Africa had just 90 people on antiretroviral therapy in 2000, but in 2019 had more than 5 million on HIV treatment. The country now has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world.
Price of tax avoidance
And tax avoidance on the part of the top one per cent, and the wealth that they control, continues to deny resources to healthcare the world over, the agency maintains.
“It is unacceptable that rich people and big companies are avoiding taxes and ordinary people are paying through their ill health” said the UNAIDS chief. “Big companies must pay their fair share of taxes, protect employee rights, provide equal pay for equal work and provide safe working conditions for all, especially women.”
African debt burden
Debt is also posing a serious threat to Africa’s economy, health and development, resulting in big cuts in social spending to ensure debt repayment, the agency notes.
According to the International Monetary Fund, as of April 2019 half of low-income countries in Africa were either in debt distress or at a high risk of being so. Beyond low-income countries, in Zambia there was a 27% drop in health-care investments and an increase of debt servicing by 790% between 2015 and 2018. Similar trends were seen in Kenya, where debt servicing increased by 176% and health investments declined by 9% between 2015 and 2018.
Another driver of ill health is the denial of human rights, said UNAIDS. According to the World Bank, more than one billion women lack legal protection against domestic violence and close to 1.4 billion women lack legal protection against what they term, domestic economic violence.
In at least 65 countries, a same-sex sexual relationship is a crime, with a knock-on effect in formal legal rights to healthcare, including hospital and insurance access. In recent years in some countries, crackdowns and restrictions on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people have increased. Sex work remains a criminal offence in 98 countries, notes the agency.
Progress can be made
“In the next decade, we can end AIDS as a public health threat and achieve universal health coverage”, said Ms. Byanyima, calling on governments everywhere to “tax fairly, provide publicly funded quality health care, guarantee human rights and achieve gender equality for all—it is possible.”
#UN; UNHealth; #WHO; #PHEIC; #Coronavirus
Geneva, Jan 22 (Canadian-Media): Experts convened in Geneva by the World Health Organization (WHO) will meet again on Thursday to determine whether novel coronavirus is a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), UN news release said.
A woman wears a medical mask in China. (file photo). Credit: World Bank/Curt Carnemark
Members of the WHO Emergency Committee deliberated until late on Wednesday evening, as they continue to study an outbreak of the new respiratory virus first identified in China, as cases continue to rise.
“There was an excellent discussion during the committee today, but it was also clear that to proceed, we need more information”, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in statement.
“The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence.”
Novel coronavirus was first identified in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
By Wednesday, there were more than 440 confirmed cases, and 17 reported deaths, almost doubling the death toll in the space of one day.
All of the deaths have occurred in Wuhan, which has a population of some 11 million, similar to that of the UK capital, London. Now the entire city, has in effect, been quarantined, according to news reports.
Chinese authorities have reportedly urged people to stop travelling in or out of the city, going as far as to temporarily shut down public transport, but have acknowledged that efforts to curtail the outbreak will be made more difficult by the week-long Lunar New Year holiday, which sees hundreds of millions criss-crossing the country visiting relatives.
On Wednesday, the Chinese city of Macau reportedly confirmed its first case of Novel Coronavirus, and there have been cases in Thailand, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and the US.
Several places have reportedly stepped up airport screening procedures for passengers arriving from Wuhan, including Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the USA, Russian and Japan.
#CoronavirusVirusInChinaRises; #GlobalHelthConcern; #VirusThilandJapan&USConfirm
Wuhan (China), Jan 22 (Canadian-Media): With the sharp increase in the number of cases affected with the new viral illness to 470, including fifteen Chinese medical personnel China. and nine deaths, Chinese health authorities has raised a global concern, media reports said.
Coronavirus. Image credit: Twitter handle
And, the director-general of China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Gao Fu, said virus was adapting and mutating, giving rise to a big challenges for health authorities.
There had been confirmed cases of virus Wednesday in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the United States and Taiwan people from Wuhan or who recently had traveled there.
Jiao Yahui, a health commission official, said "the disease will continue to develop. It has developed different features compared with the early stage, and the prevention and precautionary measures need to change accordingly."
#Dhaka; #DhakaAirport; #screeningfOfPassengers; #China; #ChinaVirusScare
Dhaka, Jan 21 (Canadian-Media): Screening process of passengers visiting Bangladesh from China has started in Bangladesh's Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, due to scare of breakout of a new SARS-like virus in China, media reports said.
Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka. Image credit: Facebook Page
Group Captain AHM Touhid-ul Ahsan, director of the airport said that out of the three flights operating on the China-Bangladesh route, one of US Bangla and two Chinese airlines -- China Eastern and China Southern -- screening began with passengers of a flight that arrived around 7:30 in the morning from China and added that screening of passengers traveling in the other two flights will also take place.
Steps have been taken today to screen passengers from China arriving via transit at Chattogram’s Shah Amanat International Airport in order to prevent breakout of a new SARS-like virus.
#China; #SouthKorea; #MysteriosVirus; #ChineseAuthorities; #newCoronavirus; #SARS; #WHO
Beijing (China), Jan 20 (Canadian-Media): A third death from a mysterious virus and more than 130 new cases over the weekend, including ones found in Beijing and southern China for the first time were reported by the Chinese authorities, and one case was also reported in South Korea on Monday, media reports said.
Wuhan Coronavirus in China. Image credit: Facebook page of @wuhancoronavirus2020china
China's Public health officials, greatly concerned about both -- the transmission of virus, and spread of the disease -- ahead of China’s busiest travel season with hundreds of millions of people in China expected to travel for the Lunar New Year holiday, which starts Friday, are working to stop a major outbreak.
The total number of cases in China to around 200, more than double the number reported just a day earlier.
There is a growing among some experts that the outbreak could be more severe than China’s government has described. The virus has already spread outside China.
On Sunday, China’s central government reassured the public that the situation was under control.
Although Beijing’s National Health Commission said that experts agreed that an epidemic was “still preventable and controllable,” still, the commission acknowledged their worry about the source of the mysterious virus and its path of transmission could not be understood.
The mutation of the virus still needs to be closely monitored,” the statement said.
“If you cannot find the source and control the source of the virus, you cannot extinguish the fire,” said David Hui, the director of the Stanley Ho Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Although Dr. Hui said the risk of the virus spreading from human to human appeared to be low, he noted that the virus could mutate.
The World Health Organization said on Sunday it would continue to examine the issue as it remained unclear whether it can easily spread from one person to another.
"We do not have enough evidence to evaluate the full extent of human-to-human transmission,” its Manila office said.
According to the latest information received and @WHO analysis, there is evidence of limited human-to-human transmission of #nCOV.
This is similar to other respiratory illnesses and in particular with other coronavirus outbreaks.
There are probably far more cases of the illness than disclosed by the authorities, some experts suggested.
There could now be as many as 1,700 cases of the new virus, one estimate by researchers at Imperial College London suggested on Friday.
The W.H.O. said on Sunday that there is a probability of more confirmed cases by China in the coming days and weeks as more people were screened for it.
The new virus is reminiscent of the SARS outbreak, which was also caused by a coronavirus. SARS, which probably jumped to humans from animals at markets, had its origin in China and spread to other countries, infecting more than 8,000 people causing death of more than 800.
While the new coronavirus appears to be less severe than SARS, public health officials around the world are exercising caution.
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States announced that airports in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles would begin screening passengers from Wuhan for the virus.
“Until it becomes capable of human-to-human transmission, there’s not a major threat of a pandemic,” said Dr. Lipkin, the director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at the university’s Mailman School of Public Health.
“We need to prepare for the possibility that this could be a larger outbreak, and it could become a pandemic,” he said. “But that doesn’t mean that it will.”