The World Health Organization (WHO) has today declared the China-based coronavirus outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The WHO announcement came after an emergency committee reconvened Thursday in Geneva.
Last week, WHO said the virus – which was first reported late December, with 7,800 cases including 170 deaths in China - did not yet constitute the emergency declaration.
However, experts say there is significant evidence the virus is spreading among people in China and have noted with concern instances in other countries — including the United States, France, Japan, Germany, Canada and Vietnam — where there have also been isolated cases of human-to-human transmission.
There are now 98 cases in 18 countries outside China, including eight cases of human-to-human transmission in four countries: Germany, Japan, Vietnam and the U.S.
But with rising numbers and evidence of person-to-person transmission in a handful of cases outside of China, WHO leadership called the committee back together due to the "potential for a much larger outbreak."
WHO defines a public health emergency of international concern as "an extraordinary event" that constitutes a "public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease" and "to potentially require a coordinated international response."
Previous emergencies have included Ebola, Zika and H1N1.