Health and Science

Watch: WHO officials hold press conference on coronavirus as outbreak worsens across globe

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The World Health Organization is holding its third press briefing Wednesday to discuss the flu-like coronavirus that has now killed at least 132 people and infected more than 6,150 people in dozens of countries around the world.

WHO was expected last week to announce whether the new virus was a global health emergency but officials said they postponed its decision to gather more data.

Executive director of WHO Health Emergencies Program Dr. Michael Ryan and head of WHO's Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis unit Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove are scheduled to speak.

Local authorities in China have quarantined the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, and a number of other major cities in the country.

CDC officials said Monday that the number of "patients under investigation" in the U.S. has almost doubled since last week to 110 across 26 states. There remains just five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and the disease is not spreading through human-to-human contact in the U.S. However, German officials confirmed Tuesday what is believed to be one of the first person-to-person transmissions of the infection outside of China.

WHO doesn't enact the emergencies lightly, health experts say. The last time WHO declared a global health emergency was in 2019 for the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo that killed more than 2,000 people. The agency also declared global emergencies for the 2016 Zika virus, the 2009 H1N1 swine flu and the 2014 polio and Ebola outbreaks.

One of the criteria used to determine whether the coronavirus is an international health threat is whether the disease spreads locally once it arrives in new parts of the world, "and that's a nuanced and important distinction to make," Ryan told reporters last week.

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