CDC Advises Avoiding Travel to China as WHO Plans to Reconvene for PHEIC Decision


The WHO will reconvene on Thursday, January 30, 2020, to discuss whether the novel coronavirus should be designated a public health emergency of international concern.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will reconvene the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee once again on Thursday, January 30, 2020, to discuss whether the current novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC).

The committee met last week to evaluate the situation. The decision was initially delayed by a day but on Thursday January 23, 2020, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus, PhD, announced that the committee did not believe that the situation constituted a PHEIC at the time.

The decision to reconvene was based on the documentation of more than 6000 cases of 2019-nCoV worldwide. According to the WHO, there have only been 68 cases (1%) of the virus recorded outside of China, but person-to-person transmission outside of China has been confirmed.

I am concerned about the impact the new #coronavirus outbreak is having on the health system. It is flu season, many people are worried & many are sick. We are impressed with the #healthworkers' dedication. It is highly important that they are able to safely perform their work.

— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) January 29, 2020

Earlier this week the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance regarding travel to China, the hotspot and origin of the 2019-nCoV outbreak.

The agency has issued a level 3 travel health notice that recommends that all US travelers avoid nonessential travel to the entire country of China.

In response the growing outbreak, Chinese officials have closed the international airport located in Wuhan, where the outbreak originated. However, the CDC’s warning applies to the entire country of China, as the emerging respiratory illness has spread outside of the Hubei province, where Wuhan City is located, into many other parts of the nation.

At this point in time, thousands of cases of 2019-nCoV have been reported in China along with several cases of severe illnesses that have resulted in death. According to a statement issued by CDC, “sustained person-to-person community spread with this virus is reportedly occurring in China.”

Thus far there have been 5 cases of 2019-nCoV documented in the United States. All cases have been recorded in individuals who visited Wuhan. There have been no reports of person-to-person transmission in the United States and the virus is not spreading in the community at this time.

The CDC acknowledges that it is possible for person-to-person transmission to occur in the United States; however, at this time the overall public health goal is to contain the outbreak and prevent further spread of the virus.

The United States is not the only country where cases of 2019-nCoV have been documented. Travel-associated cases have been confirmed across several Asian countries, 2 European countries, Canada, and Australia.

Although several nations have recorded travel-associated cases, Wuhan, China remains the epicenter of the outbreak and community spread of 2019-nCoV has not been recorded outside of China.

Based on currently available information, the CDC is advising Americans that the immediate health risk from 2019-nCoV for the general public is considered low at this time.

The CDC also announced that the US government has relocated approximately 210 US citizens from Wuhan back into the United States. All individuals were screened prior to take off, monitored while on board the aircraft, screened during refueling in Anchorage, Alaska, and monitored during the remainder of the journey. The individuals were brought to March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, where they are being monitored for symptoms.

Contagion® will monitor the WHO’s decision on whether the 2019-nCoV is a PHEIC.

For the most recent case counts in the novel corona virus outbreak, check out the Contagion® Outbreak Monitor.

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