For Only the Sixth Time, the World Health Organization Declares a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

After the epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) decided that there had to be a mechanism by which all of the world’s public health agencies would rally under a coordinated plan to counter emergencies. The result was the adoption of the 2005 International Health Regulations to declare Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC).

Since the plan was developed, WHO has only declared a PHEIC six times. The first time was the novel influenza pandemic of 2009, then the resurgence of polio in 2014, then the Western Africa Ebola epidemic of 2014, the 2016 Zika epidemic and the 2018 Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Now, for the sixth time, a PHEIC has been declared concerning the novel coronavirus epidemic centered around China.

Here is the press conference announcing the resolution and next steps:


Author: René F. Najera, DrPH

I am the editor of the History of Vaccines site, an online project by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. All opinions expressed on these blog posts are not necessarily those of the College or any of my employers. Check out my professional profile on LinkedIn: Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen