Coronavirus ‘not global emergency’ – WHO

By Paulina Ndalikokule

DESPITE the rapid spread of the dangerous respiratory infection coronavirus from China to at least 17 other countries, the World Health Organisation (WHO) last week decided not to declare the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a global emergency but rather a high global risk.

According to The New York Times, WHO officials argued that the number of cases outside China was small, and that the disease did not seem to be spreading within other countries. WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a news conference in Geneva said at the moment there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission outside China.

“That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. This is an emergency in China, but it has not yet become a global health emergency. It may yet become one,” he warned.

Worldwide, more than 6000 people are confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus, which had killed at least 132 people by yesterday. According to Al Jazeera news, the virus spread to 17 other countries including 5 in the United States two in Japan and others. African countries such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Ivory Coast are being investigated for suspected corona virus.

Last week the Minister of Health and Social Services Kalumbi Shangula assured Namibians that the ministry was keeping track of the fast spreading disease. Shangula in an interview with Confidente urged the public to remain calm because the virus had not yet spread to Africa.

Recently Namibia’s Ambassador to China, Elia Kaiyamo informed the nation that no Namibian living in China was reported to be infected by the recent outbreak.

Coronaviruses are large group of viruses common among animals. In rare cases, they are what scientists call zoonotic, meaning they can be transmitted from animals to humans. In many cases the viruses can make people sick, usually with a mild to moderate upper respiratory tract illnesses, similar to a common cold.

Symptoms of the deadly virus include runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, fever and feeling unwell. For those with weakened immune system, the elderly and very young children, the virus could cause more serious respiratory tract illness like pneumonia or bronchitis.

The virus is spread mostly from an infected person to others through the air by coughing and sneezing, close contact such as touching and or shaking hands, touching objects infected with the virus and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose before washing your hands.

There are no vaccines available to protect against coronavirus but one can reduce the transmission through washing hands more often with soap and water, avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands or avoiding close contact with people who are infected with the virus. If you are mildly sick, it is advised to keep yourself hydrated, stay at home and rest. Those concerned about symptoms are advised to visit healthcare facilities.

As the death toll continued to rise, China’s National Health Commission announced nationwide measures to identify suspected cases of the deadly virus on trains, airplanes and buses.