The Wuhan coronavirus does not yet constitute a public health emergency of international concern, according to an emergency committee convened by the World Health Organization.
“The advice to the [director-general], which is provided by the emergency committee, is that now is not the time” and that it is “too early to consider that this event is a public health emergency of international concern,” committee chairman Dr. Didier Houssin told reporters Thursday.
The announcement came shortly after the committee was convened over two days in Geneva to advise WHO leadership on the outbreak. The organization was expected to make an announcement Wednesday, but WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus then told reporters that he did not have enough information to make a decision, and the committee was asked to reconvene a second day.
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.
While Ghebreyesus praised the Chinese government and its cooperation with WHO on Wednesday, Houssin then expressed that the information they had from Chinese authorities was too limited and imprecise for the committee to make a recommendation that day. The committee remained divided — roughly 50/50 — over the course of the two-day meeting, Houssin said Thursday.
Advisers to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have told CNN they are concerned that Chinese health officials have still not released basic epidemiological data about the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, making it more difficult to contain.
WHO has played a number of roles in the international response to the outbreak, including coordinating with international authorities and researchers, as well as developing guidance for lab testing, treatment and prevention measures.