WASHINGTON, D.C. (NBC) – After meeting for a full day, officials with the World Health Organization were not ready to declare a deadly new coronavirus a global public health emergency.
The announcement comes as officials in Wuhan, China will begin to quarantine its residents and as the U.S. deals with its first case.
The city believed to be ground zero for the mysterious coronavirus is being sealed off. According to Chinese state media, officials in Wuhan are taking extraordinary steps to quarantine residents, halting outbound flights and trains hoping to stop the spread of the virus that has killed at least 17 and sickened more than 500.
It comes as the World Health Organization grapples with how to tackle the outbreak, extending an emergency meeting into a second day.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “The decision whether or not to declare a public health emergency is one I take seriously and one I’m only prepared to make with consideration of the evidence.”
The first confirmed patient in the U.S., a Seattle-area man in his 30s who’d recently traveled to Wuhan, is hospitalized and reportedly in good condition.
Health experts are working to trace his contacts.
President Donald Trump said, “CDC has been terrific, very great professionals and we’re in very good shape.”
The focus is now on quickly identifying and isolating future possible cases.
The Cleveland Clinic’s Chairman of Infectious Disease Dr. Steven Gordon said, “Are we prepared? I would never say we’re 100 percent prepared but I would certainly say we’re more prepared than a year ago and a year before.”
Airports globally are stepping up screenings. The U.S. is working to funnel all travelers from Wuhan through five airports including Chicago’s O’Hare. “They’ll get a card that explains why we’re screening,” said Commissioner of the Chicago Health Department Allison Arwady. They’ll be screened for fever cough or shortness of breath.
Officials are urging awareness, not panic, as coronavirus case numbers climb
U.S. health officials have said they believe the Washington State patient is believed to be low risk to the general public. They’re also advising people to be vigilant about washing their hands, coughing and sneezing into an elbow and staying home when sick. The same things you do to avoid the flu.
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