February 20th, 2020
A new Coronavirus (Covid-19) from Wuhan, China, that was identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019 has, as of February 20, caused more than 76,200 confirmed cases of respiratory disease, resulting in at least 2,247 deaths (these are official numbers; experts have warned that actual infection rates and number of deaths may be higher). This pathogen is from the same family of viruses that includes the common cold, MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome).
In an emergency meeting convened Thursday, January 30, the WHO declared the Covid-19 outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
So far, suspected and confirmed cases have been reported in at least 26 countries, with the vast majority of cases in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), in the region near Wuhan City, Hubei Province. The cases that have been identified outside of the PRC usually have had some linkage via travel or contact with the affected region in the PRC. As with other respiratory viruses, Covid-19 can be spread through the air by coughing or sneezing, or by coming into contact with an infected person or an object or surface with the virus on it.
International Medical Corps is responding in five high-risk countries where we have existing medical missions, and where we also are working with partners to address preparedness for confirmed and suspected cases of Covid-19. These countries—the Philippines, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo—are deemed at high risk because of their roles as transit hubs, because of the presence of large populations at risk or because the WHO has noted the vulnerability of their healthcare systems.
International Medical Corps is leveraging the expertise of staff who have worked on SARS in China and in Asia during 2003 epidemic, and has reached out to authorities in affected areas in Asia, the US and Canada to offer assistance. Our Emergency Response Unit is reviewing our emergency roster of more than 500 specialists, and is taking action to acquire additional personal protective equipment (PPE), rapid diagnostics, infection control items, specialized medical equipment and additional portable clinical structures required for isolation, screening and treatment during outbreak situations.
The WHO has notified its system of Emergency Medical Teams (including International Medical Corps) to ascertain their state of readiness and availability should the outbreak continue to widen. These rapid-response teams would be used to strengthen screening, disease tracking, treatment and isolation capacities in selected locations, such as healthcare facilities, airports or critical industries.
International Medical Corps is ready to respond to any additional medical needs of affected populations when requested by the WHO, or to expand operations independently when the need arises.
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