The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the first case of a novel coronavirus, a new virus from the same family as SARS, outside China. The UN health agency, quoting the Thai officials, said that a person travelling from Wuhan, China was hospitalised in Thailand and is recovering from the illness.
The WHO said that the possibility of cases of the new virus outside China was not unexpected and it reinforced the agency’s calls for active monitoring and preparedness in other countries. It said the genetic sequences shared by China can be used to rapidly diagnose such patients and, adding that the WHO has issued guidance on how to detect and treat persons ill with the new virus.
“WHO reiterates that it is essential that investigations continue in China to identify the source of this outbreak and any animal reservoirs or intermediate hosts,” said the UN agency in a statement.
According to the WHO, novel coronavirus is a new strain in the large family of coronaviruses (CoV) which was previously not identified in humans. CoV causes illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). CoV is zoonotic which means such viruses transmit between animals and humans.
On January 13, the WHO released a list of urgent, global health challenges and raised ‘deep concerns’ over lack of investment in core health priorities and systems by the leaders. WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, in a statement, said that health is an investment in the future.
“Countries invest heavily in protecting their people from terrorist attacks, but not against the attack of a virus, which could be far more deadly, and far more damaging economically and socially,” said Ghebreyesus.
The WHO official said that health security cannot be a matter for ministries of health alone as a pandemic could bring economies and nations to their knees. He added that governments, communities, and international agencies must work together to achieve these critical goals.