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Coronavirus transmission has slowed, World Health Organization announces

WHO stopped short of calling the COVID-19 coronavirus a pandemic, saying much of its spread is still localized to China.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

Transmission of the coronavirus has begun to slow, the World Health Organization announced this morning.

WHO stopped short of calling the COVID-19 coronavirus a pandemic, saying much of its spread is still localized to China.

WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today that 72,000 cases have been reported in China, with 1,772 resulting in death. Most of these cases are local to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the disease.

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Outside China, 694 cases have been reported around the world.

"We're starting to get a clearer picture of the outbreak … where it's going, and where it could be headed," Ghebreyesus said.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT

The latest data shows a decline in new cases of the virus, but Ghebreyesus said this trend should be interpreted cautiously, and added that WHO is unsure whether the decline will continue.

He also said it appears the COVID-9 coronavirus is not as deadly as other relatively recent coronaviruses, such as SARS. About 14% of those affected experience severe cases of pneumonia and shortness of breath; many have septic shock and organ failure, and the risk of death generally increases with age.

Children seem less susceptible to the virus, though more research is needed to understand why, said Ghebreyesus.

WHO is sending test kits to locations throughout the globe, and is training health workers, working with manufacturers to ensure supply, and advising health professionals on how to perform screenings and treatment.WHAT'S THE IMPACT

WHO is sending test kits to locations throughout the globe, and is training health workers, working with manufacturers to ensure supply, and advising health professionals on how to perform screenings and treatment.

To support these efforts, WHO has put out a call for $675 million to help countries prepare. The organization has not yet met this funding goal.

"We have a window of opportunity now," said Ghebreyesus. "We have to address this now. Let's not squander it."

Dr. Michael J. Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, said COVID-9 doesn't rise to the level of a pandemic because its spread is mostly localized to China, and all of the cases reported worldwide can be traced back to the same region. Transmission outside of China has been extremely limited.

"I think we have to be very careful to not drive fear in the world right now," said Ryan. "The risk is very high in China, it's high regionally, it's high around the world. It's not high in terms of a pandemic, but it's high in terms of further transmission around the world."

The use of hyper-immune globulin treatments, which boost antibodies, have been proven effective for other diseases, provided they are administered at the right time, sayd Ryan. WHO is pursuing this as a possible treatment option.

THE LARGER TREND

According to NBC News, San Diego County declared a public health emergency Friday as American evacuees from Wuhan had been quarantined by Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego. The base received two flights of evacuees last week. Two of the travelers tested positive but are reportedly doing well.

Hundreds of Americans who had been passengers on a coronavirus-stricken cruise ship in Japan landed in the U.S. on Monday, including 14 people who tested positive for the virus and were allowed to join the evacuation operation at the last minute, according to The Wall Street Journal.

As of Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 15 novel coronavirus cases in the U.S.

In 2016,The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services established national emergency preparedness requirements to assist providers in planning for natural and man-made disasters and coordinating with federal, state, tribal, regional and local emergency preparedness systems.

The guidance for the Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers emphasized the need for all hazards preparation.

In February 2019, CMS took additional steps to ensure facilities include planning for infectious diseases within their emergency preparedness program and added "emerging infectious diseases" to the scope of an all-hazards planning approach.

HIMSS is offering weekly updates on how it is handling the ongoing coronavirus situation. 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com