The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus circulating in China and elsewhere a global health crisis Thursday, the same day the U.S. reported its first human spread of the illness.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, said the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 7,800 and killed 170, has led to an “unprecedented outbreak” that has hit China and 18 other countries.
He said the main reason for declaring the international health concern is due to worries that the new virus will spread to countries that are ill prepared to deal with the outbreak.
“We must all act together now to limit further spread,” he said. “We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system.”
Despite the declaration, the director-general said there are no recommendations to restrict international travel and trade. Limiting the movement of people and goods during public health emergencies might divert resources, interrupt needed aid and support and disrupt businesses and economies.
Also on Thursday, the U.S. reported the first person-to-person transmission of the coronavirus in Illinois, bumping the number of confirmed cases to six.
The man infected is the husband of the Chicago woman who was first confirmed to have the coronavirus in Illinois, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The woman, who is in her 60s, had traveled to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus.
Arizona, Washington state and California have also reported confirmed cases.
Eighteen countries, including the U.S., have reported 98 cases, contributing to the 7,834 cases worldwide with about 99% of the cases in China.
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