The new coronavirus has been declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization, as the outbreak continues to spread outside China.
The announcement comes just hours after the U.S. confirmed its first human-to-human transmission of the virus, which has killed more than 200 people in China and has now spread to at least 18 other countries.
Since emerging less than a month ago in Wuhan, China, the coronavirus has infected more people than the 2003 SARS epidemic, which sickened roughly 8,100 people across the globe over nine months. As of Thursday, there are at least eight cases in four countries, outside of China, of human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus.
“Over the past few weeks we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen that has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a news conference at the organization’s Geneva headquarters on Thursday. “We must act together now to limit the spread.”
WHO defines a global health emergency, also known as a “public health emergency of international concern,” as an “extraordinary event” that is “serious, unusual or unexpected.”