A new Coronavirus (COVID-19) from Wuhan, China, that was identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) in December 2019 has, as of March 10, caused more than 116,160 confirmed cases of respiratory disease, resulting in at least 4,088 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 118 countries and territories, 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 taking an agency-wide approach to our response, providing our 7,000+ staff members in more than 30 countries with clinical guidance and planning documents designed to help them screen patients, enhance infection prevention and control (IPC), and protect health providers. We also have developed specific training materials to help staff and healthcare providers better respond to the virus.
Overall, the efforts that our teams are providing related to isolation technique, supportive treatment, quarantine and home healthcare service throughout the affected countries are proving critical to the management of this outbreak. 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.