Health and Science

Watch: World Health Organization holds press conference on coronavirus outbreak

Key Points
  • World Health Organization officials are holding a news briefing Monday to update the public on the outbreak.
  • As of Monday, more than 40,000 cases of coronavirus pneumonia have been reported in over two dozen countries, resulting in at least 910 deaths almost exclusively in China.
  • "In short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said in a tweet Sunday

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World Health Organization officials are holding a press conference Monday to update the public on the new coronavirus outbreak that has killed more people than SARS as of this weekend.

As of Friday, more than 40,000 cases of coronavirus have been reported in over two dozen countries, resulting in at least 910 deaths almost exclusively in China. The WHO declared the virus a global health emergency last month, a rare designation that helps the international agency mobilize financial and political support to contain the outbreak.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said in a tweet Sunday that an advance team for the WHO-led mission to China had departed. It is led by Dr. Bruce Aylward, who served as a special representative for the WHO in the Ebola response effort from 2014 to 2016, according to the WHO website.

Tedros also warned that while the virus has yet to spread widely outside of China, that could accelerate.

"The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries," he said in a tweet, "in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg."

While scientists have made progress in sequencing the virus's DNA and generally know how it is transmitted, Tedros said last week they still don't know the source of the outbreak or its natural host. The agency also hasn't found a vaccine or treatment, "and we don't properly understand its transmissibility or severity," he said.

"To put it bluntly, we're shadow boxing," Tedros said Thursday. "We need to bring this virus out into the light so we can attack it properly."

WHO is convening a two-day global research and innovation forum this week to share research and ideas on how to combat the virus, he said.

[To see the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit CNBC's live updates here.]