How the World Health Organization is Responding to the Coronavirus Outbreak
29 min

At the time of recording, the coronavirus outbreak that originated in China has infected over 4,500 people -- though that number is sure to dramatically increase in the coming days. The vast majority of the people affected by this outbreak are in China, though infections have been confirmed in at least 14 other countries. And, again, the number of countries impacted will certainly increase. 

There is a lot we still don't know about the coronavirus and this outbreak -- but we do know that this coronavirus outbreak is poised to become a major global health crisis.  So, for this episode, I wanted to give you a sense of the kind of global health infrastructure that exists for exactly moments like this.

On the line with me to discuss the international response to this outbreak so far, including actions taken by the World Health Organization is Ambassador John E Lange. He is a retired ambassador from the United States who currently serves as a senior fellow for Global Health Diplomacy with the United Nations Foundation. Ambassador Lange also served, from 2006 to 2009 as the US Special Representative for Avian Flu and Pandemic Flu preparedness. This gives him some unique insight into how both the US government and entities like the WHO respond to these kinds of fast-moving outbreaks. 

We kick off discussing the World Health Organization's role in managing the global response to an outbreak like this, including the relevance of something called the 2005 International Health Regulations. These were adopted by the international community following the SARS outbreak in 2003. We also discuss potential scenarios for the coronavirus to turn into a pandemic that could deeply impact poorer countries with weak health systems.

By the time you are listening to this, the WHO will likely have declared this situation.  But when Amb. Lange and I spoke on January 28, they had not yet made that declaration. Still, anticipating it, we do discuss what is meant by the term.



CSIS | Center for Strategic and International Studies
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