WHO declares coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency

World Health Organisation declares new strain of coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the new strain of coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern.

The decision was announced after a Geneva meeting of the international organisation’s emergency committee.

Director-General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described the virus as an “unprecedented outbreak” that has been met with an “unprecedented response”.

“The main reason for this declaration is not because of what is happening in China, but because of what is happening in other countries.

“Our greatest concern is the potential for the virus to spread to other countries with weaker health systems.

“Let me be clear, this declaration is not a vote of no confidence in China. On the contrary, WHO continues to have coincidence in China’s capacity to control the outbreak.”

Coronaviruses (CoV) refers to a family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

The 2019-nCoV, also known as the Wuhan Coronavirus is a novel or new coronavirus, that was first identified in humans in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

As of January 29, 2020, there are more than 6000 confirmed cases worldwide and the virus has been reported in as many as 18 countries outside of China, including eight cases of human to human transmission in four countries.

It is understood nine people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus in Australia, with four cases in NSW, three in Victoria and two in Queensland.

This week the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 2019-nCoV had spread between two people in the United States, representing the first instance of person-to-person spread with this new virus in the US.

Previously, all confirmed US cases had been associated with travel to Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by this novel coronavirus has been ongoing since December 2019. However, this latest 2019-nCoV patient has no history of travel to Wuhan but shared a household with the patient diagnosed with 2019-nCoV infection on January 21, 2020.

Industry urged to review cleaning practices 

According to biorisk management professional, Patty Olinger, executive director of the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division ISSA, everyone, including cleaning professionals, need to pay close attention to what is going on in the world regarding the Wuhan Coronavirus.

“Right now, cleaning professionals and the general public need to remind themselves of proper practices for illnesses such as the flu, which should be equally protective with this novel virus,” Olinger says.

“Wash your hands often, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, stay home if you feel ill, and keep you distance from those who are ill,” Olinger told CMM.

“It is important that we revisit our existing processes and procedures as to when we need to wear a respirator and why. Then ask ourselves what are we going to do if they are not available? It is likely that we will see a shortage in masks, respirators as well as disposable gowns, as we saw during the Ebola outbreak in 2014-2015 and during the 2009 H1N1 (Swine Flu) pandemic.

“We also need to revisit our processes and procedures for proper cleaning, sanitization and disinfection of surfaces and spaces. This is critical.”

Infection prevention awareness 

ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, and the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC), a division of ISSA, have launched a new resource webpage to access current information about the new coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, also known as the “Wuhan coronavirus.”

Other preventative measures include;

  • Washing your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds.
  • Using 70 per cent alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

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INCLEAN is published by the Intermedia Group on behalf of ISSA 

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