An organization of physicians that aims to educate and inform about potential disasters within the United States says it is doubtful U.S. and global health agencies are prepared for a potential pandemic of the novel coronavirus infection (2019-nCoV) originating in Wuhan, China.
Physicians for Civil Defense President Jane M. Orient, MD, said in a press statement:
Species jumping of zoonotic (animal) diseases is a constant threat, especially when humans live close to animals. Mutations and mixing and matching in genetic material of viral strains can produce highly transmissible, lethal strains to which humans have no immunity.
The Arizona-based organization of physicians was founded in 1991 and cosponsors annual meetings of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness.
As Breitbart News reported Monday, China’s National Health Commission stated that 2,744 people have been infected thus far with the coronavirus, with 769 new cases Sunday, an increase from the 688 recorded the day before.
“China Health Minister Ma Xiaowei said Monday the coronavirus appears to be getting stronger and warned of walking ‘contagious agents’ spreading the disease as the death toll increased by 24 to 80,” the report noted.
In the press release from the physicians’ group, Orient said the report of the number of cases in the city of Wuhan is “believed to be a gross underestimate,” with cases now reported in Taiwan, Thailand, Japan, South Korea, and five confirmed in the U.S.
CDC confirms 3 new US cases of novel #coronavirus (#2019nCoV) infection in the U.S., 1 in Arizona & 2 in California. Everyone can do their part to help CDC respond to this emerging public health threat. See CDC Recommendations for what you can do: https://t.co/rY45g1TcOc pic.twitter.com/2zjppx83eV
— CDC (@CDCgov) January 27, 2020
Physicians for Disaster Preparedness observed the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Response System January 21, stating the agency had been preparing “for weeks” for the potential entrance of the coronavirus into the U.S.
The physicians’ group states, however, while CDC spent “$80 billion on a National Biological Defense,” and “claims to have made great strides in preparedness since the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) crisis in 2003,” the agency’s level of preparedness for an epidemic of the coronavirus in the U.S. is questionable:
Vaccine and effective antiviral drugs are lacking, and in an epidemic non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPI) would be key. These include eye protection, N-95 masks, hand sanitizers, and disinfection of surfaces, where infective virus can persist for days, when caring for a sick person, Dr. Orient noted.
Individuals and local authorities must be alert and prepared and not depend on a timely federal response, Dr. Orient stated.
CDC, which currently is the only provider of definitive diagnostic testing for the coronavirus, says it is “working with” the World Health Organization (WHO), an agency of the United Nations.
Q: Are antibiotics effective in preventing and treating the new #coronavirus (2019-nCoV)?
A: No, antibiotics do not work against viruses, only bacteria.
The 2019-nC0V is a virus and, therefore, antibiotics should not be used as a means of prevention or treatment. pic.twitter.com/F6qMz0ojoh
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 27, 2020
Orient noted, however, “WHO declined to call an international emergency” as the virus “is circulating in China at the time of the largest annual mass migration on the planet,” during the Lunar New Year celebration.
Orient told Breitbart News, in the past, “WHO has put out pandemic warnings that turned out to be way overstated for a couple of influenza-type outbreaks or, perhaps, even SARS, that turned out to be not a cause of dismay for great numbers, and those were forgotten about.”
“They can err in either direction,” she added. “Some of that is because it is so difficult a situation. But the whole idea that China has the biggest quarantine effort in all of human history, trying to shut down traffic in and out of more than a dozen major cities,” points to a situation of dire concern, she said.
WHO provided this explanation for its decision not to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC):
On 22 January, the members of the Emergency Committee expressed divergent views on whether this event constitutes a PHEIC or not. At that time, the advice was that the event did not constitute a PHEIC, but the Committee members agreed on the urgency of the situation and suggested that the Committee should be reconvened in a matter of days to examine the situation further.
Chinese authorities presented new epidemiological information that revealed an increase in the number of cases, of suspected cases, of affected provinces, and the proportion of deaths in currently reported cases of 4% (17 of 557). They reported fourth-generation cases in Wuhan and second-generation cases outside Wuhan, as well as some clusters outside Hubei province. They explained that strong containment measures (closure of public-transportation systems are in place in Wuhan City, as well as other nearby cities). After this presentation, the EC was informed about the evolution in Japan, Republic of Korea, and Thailand, and that one new possible case had been identified in Singapore.
The Committee welcomed the efforts made by China to investigate and contain the current outbreak.
Several members considered that it is still too early to declare a PHEIC, given its restrictive and binary nature.
Though several Chinese cities have now been quarantined, Orient observed to Breitbart News such quarantine of entire cities has not occurred since medieval eras.
Citing a report in the medical journal The Lancet, Orient noted that, of 41 hospitalized patients in Wuhan, “patients were relatively young (median age 49) and fewer than half had an underlying illness.”
“Only 66% had been exposed to the Huanan seafood market, the apparent source of the infection,” Orient said. “One patient (2%) had no fever; all had pneumonia; 29% had severe respiratory distress syndrome; and 12% had acute cardiac injury. Most cases may be very mild, facilitating more rapid spread.”
The corona virus is transmitted by droplets coming into contact with mucous membranes, including the eye. It can persist on surfaces for days. People without fever or symptoms can transmit the illness during the incubation period, which might be as long as two weeks.
“Panic is never helpful; staying calm is always good advice,” she said. “But failure to heed previous warnings of the need for robust disaster planning, and complacency about medical technology and governmental resources, has set the stage for potential unprecedented disaster.”