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World Health Organization officials are holding a press conference Tuesday to update the public on the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more people than SARS.
As of Tuesday, more than 43,100 cases of coronavirus have been reported in over two dozen countries, resulting in at least 1,018 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.
The WHO's global research and innovation forum met for the first time Tuesday at the organization's headquarters in Geneva. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, announced the forum last week.
Attendees include representatives of China and other member states, infectious disease experts, bioethicists, and major research funders, according to the preliminary agenda. The mission of the forum is to establish a common understanding of the virus and to agree upon priorities and governance framework moving forward. The forum will continue through Wednesday.
Tedros 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 experts 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 last week. "We need to bring this virus out into the light so we can attack it properly."
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