A World Health Organization official said during a press briefing Monday that she suspected there was human-to-human transmission from the moment she learned about the novel coronavirus.
“Right from the start, from the first notification we received on the 31st of December, given that this was a cluster of pneumonia — I’m a MERS specialist, so my background is in coronaviruses and influenza — so immediately thought, given that this is a respiratory pathogen, that of course there may be human-to-human transmission,” Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said, reports the Daily Caller.
Watch around the 23:00 mark:
Her suspicions didn’t seem to make it into official WHO statements, however, which appeared to take the Chinese at their word.
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China????. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
According to the latest information we have, there is no clear evidence of sustained human-to-human transmission and there are no infections reported among health care workers.— World Health Organization Western Pacific (@WHOWPRO) January 16, 2020
Chinese doctors tried warning authorities in December but those concerns were quickly stifled.
One of the first doctors to alert Chinese authorities was criticized for “spreading rumors” after sharing with a former medical-school classmate a test result showing a patient had a coronavirus. Another doctor had to write a self-criticism letter saying his warnings “had a negative impact.”
Even after Chinese President Xi Jinping personally ordered officials to control the outbreak on Jan. 7, authorities kept denying it could spread between humans—something doctors had known was happening since late December—and went ahead with a Chinese Lunar New Year banquet involving tens of thousands of families in Wuhan. (WSJ)
On Jan. 14 Van Kerkhove acknowledged “it is possible that there is limited human-to-human transmission, potentially among families,” but she then said “it is very clear right now that we have no sustained human-to-human transmission.”
Roughly a week later, and after WHO officials finally conducted a field visit to Wuhan, WHO officially determined “human-to-human transmission is taking place in Wuhan.”
But by then it was too late. The CDC had confirmed that the first “travel-related case of 2019 Novel Coronavirus” had been detected in the U.S. and President Trump soon thereafter put the first travel restrictions from China into place.
There have been nearly 2 million cases reported worldwide, and more than 120,000 deaths.
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