'Watch and wait': More time needed to determine scope of the novel coronavirus, expert says
WINNIPEG -- The World Health Organization emergency committee has decided to meet again tomorrow to decide whether it will declare a public health emergency of international concern over the outbreak of the potentially-deadly novel coronavirus.
"The decision about whether or not to declare a public health emergency of international concern is one I take extremely seriously, and one I am only prepared to make with appropriate consideration of all the evidence," said the WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement, adding the committee will meet again tomorrow and will provide more information.
The virus, which emerged in China in late December 2019, presents itself with symptoms including fever, coughing and difficult breathing. It's been linked to a food market in Wuhan, China.
A Manitoba expert on emerging viruses says while it's good to be vigilant, the world really has to take time to observe before determining the scope of the virus and what it means for global health.
"We want to remain cognisant of whether or not this is actually truly a situation of international concern or if this is something that is going to pass," Jason Kindrachuk, a professor of emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba, told CTV News.
"Back home, I think we are in a watch and wait period to be quite honest."
Kindrachuk, who is currently in Nairobi, Kenya, teaching an emerging virus workshop, said as of Wednesday afternoon there were 560 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus and 17 related deaths.
The professor said those numbers are changing rapidly and may actually be much higher. But, he said right now the fatalities are relatively low, when compared to the number of deaths related to influenza.
RISK TO MANITOBANS IS LOW: WRHA
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said while the risk to Manitobans is low, public health providers are asked to keep an eye out for people with relevant travel history and symptoms that may be related to novel coronavirus.
This includes people who have a fever and acute respiratory illness, with or without pneumonia, and recent travel to Wuhan, Central Hubei, China, within the 14 days before the onset of symptoms.
It may also affect people who had close contact with a sick person associated with the outbreak in China.
"If concerns are raised, health providers will ensure that a patient is not in close contact with other patients, and will connect with infectious disease experts and public health to consult on next steps,” it said.
Kindrachuk, however, said it's a bit too early to say what level of risk there is with the virus.
"I think we want to be careful as a scientific and a medical community in saying this is low risk, because I don't think we truly have enough data yet to establish that," he said. "For people back home, I don't think we need to have the same type of increased concern level that we're maybe seeing in Asia at present, but I think we do need to remain vigilant."
Kindrachuk encouraged members of the public to keep watching for reports of the virus, making sure to get their information from credible online sources, including the WHO.
-with files from CTV's Michelle Gerwing and CTV News