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Coronavirus update: WHO to convene forum to mobilise global support – Livemint,

Coronavirus update: WHO to convene forum to mobilise global support – Livemint,

New Delhi: The World Health Organization (WHO) plans to convene a global research and innovation forum next week to mobilise international response to the novel coronavirus (2019 – nCoV) as the fast-spreading disease has continued to confound experts.

Scheduled to be held on – 11 February in Geneva, the forum has been organized in collaboration with the Global Research Collaboration for Infectious Disease Preparedness.

The forum is expected to draft a global research agenda for the new coronavirus, setting specification and frameworks that can guide which projects are undertaken first. “Understanding the disease, its reservoirs, transmission and clinical severity and then developing effective counter-measures is critical for the control of the outbreak, to reduce deaths and minimize the economic impact,” said Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist.

Since it was first identified in Wuhan, China, in late December, scientists across the world have been struggling to find answers to questions ranging from the source of the virus to effective countermeasures and vaccines.

The source of the virus has so far not been ascertained though some studies claim it to be an animal, most likely snakes or bats. Also, there is still no vaccine for the new coronavirus.

Globally, efforts are on to prevent further spread of the virus and the WHO has declared it a global public health emergency. The disease has claimed 823 lives so far and affected more than 90, 377 people in 377 countries, According to the Johns Hopkins University’s real-time tracker of the disease.

The WHO forum will bring together key players, including leading scientists as well as public health agencies, ministries of health, and research funders pursuing the 2019 – nCoV, critical animal health and public health research and the development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics, among other innovations.

“Harnessing the power of science is critical for bringing this outbreak under control. There are questions we need answers to, and tools we need developed as quickly as possible, “said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The participants will discuss several areas of research, including identifying the source of the virus as well as sharing of biological samples and genetic sequences, the apex global health agency said in a statement.

“Experts will build on existing SARS and MERS coronavirus research and identify knowledge gaps and research determined in order to accelerate scientific information and medical products most needed to minimize the impact of the 2019 – nCoV outbreak, “the statement said.

The WHO said the forum will also fast-track the development and evaluation of effective diagnostic tests, vaccines and medicines, while establishing mechanisms for affordable access to vulnerable populations and facilitating community engagement.

“The WHO R&D Blueprint is a global strategy and preparedness platform that drives coordinated development of drugs and vaccines before epidemics, and allows the rapid activation of R&D activities during epidemics. It speeds up the availability of the diagnostics, vaccines and treatments and technologies that ultimately save lives, “said Michael Ryan, executive director, WHO Health Emergencies Program.

Setting clear global research implications for the novel coronavirus should lead to more efficient investments, high-quality research and synergies among global researchers, the WHO said.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).

A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. The outbreak is that of a new, unknown form of pneumonia.

Public health experts say coronavirus can spread through both direct and indirect contact. While direct contact occurs through close contact with any kind of oral secretion, the indirect route could be through cough or sneezing – droplet infection.

“Like other coronaviruses – such as the ones causing SARS and MERS – even the Wuhan virus comes from animals. Those who are infected may have flu- or pneumonia-like symptoms. It is therefore important to watch out for cough, fever and breathing difficulties and contact a specialist immediately. In severe cases, it can also lead to organ failure. There is no vaccine or treatment for this condition as of now and recovery is dependent on how strong the immune system is, “said Prashant Dash, director-medical services, Medlife, an online platform providing pharmacy, diagnostics, and e-consultation in India.

“It is a good idea to get the flu vaccine and keep away from someone who has either returned from China or has flu-like symptoms to prevent transmission. Make sure you get information from the right sources and contact a doctor in case of any concerns, “he said.

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