The World Health Organization will gather a panel of experts on coronavirus Wednesday in Geneva, Switzerland, to determine whether a China-based outbreak constitutes an international public health emergency and how the outbreak can be managed.
China has reported 291 cases of the virus since December, most in Wuhan. At least three deaths are blamed on the outbreak. The virus is spreading across China, and one case has been confirmed in Japan, two in Thailand, and one in South Korea.
Many of the initial cases of the coronavirus were linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, but Chinese health officials said this week that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed.
The Lunar New Year is Saturday, and officials are concerned that millions of holiday travelers across Asia will fuel spread of the disease.
WHO has published a range of interim guidance for all countries on how they can prepare for this virus, including how to monitor for sick people, test samples, treat patients and communicate the risks to the public.
The disease is drawing intense attention due to its similarities with Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, which killed more than 600 people across mainland China and Hong Kong along with more than 100 other people around the world in 2002-2003.
The number of global SARS cases exceeded 8,000 in 37 countries, and almost 1 in 10 cases resulted in death.
Human-to-human transmission confirmed: China battles coronavirus outbreak
Here’s what to know about coronavirus:
What is coronavirus? What are the symptoms?
Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as pneumonia to Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, known as MERS, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
How is coronavirus similar to Ebola, MERS and SARS?
Coronaviruses, Ebola and SARS are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Ebola was carried by fruit bats, which spread it to other animals. SARS was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS from camels to humans.
Should Americans be afraid of coronavirus?
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Customs and Border Protection began “enhanced health screenings” to detect travelers sickened by coronavirus coming into the United States from Wuhan. The screenings are taking place at airports in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles. The CDC said it is monitoring coronavirus and the risk for spreading into the U.S.