The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern after an emergency committee reconvened Thursday in Geneva.
“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to countries with weaker health systems, and which are ill-prepared to deal with it.”
The death toll now stands at 170 people in China.
The WHO said there had been 98 cases in 18 countries outside of the country, but no deaths.
Most cases have emerged in people who have travelled from the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak began.
However, there have been eight cases of human-to-human infection – in Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and the United States.
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.
This news comes as health authorities in Thessaloniki confirmed a man was admitted to the city’s Ahepa hospital on Thursday, with symptoms that resemble coronavirus.
The sixty-year-old man was admitted to the AHEPA University General Hospital of Thessaloniki’s quarantine ward after he fell ill after returning from his trip to the city of Wuhan in China, where the coronavirus is thought to have originated.
AHEPA is one of 21 designated coronavirus reference hospitals throughout Greece and one of three in Thessaloniki.
According to reports, the patient is undergoing medical tests and will remain in quarantine. A sample of his DNA has been sent for testing which is to determine whether it is, in fact, the coronavirus or a strain of flu.
This is Greece’s first reported case of a person being tested for the deadly virus.