Experts: Coronavirus is declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization


Published: 31Jan2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus outbreak a public-health emergency of international concern on January 30, as the first person-to-person transmission of the virus was reported in the U.S. The WHO designation, pointing to an increase in the number of cases, indicates that international public-health authorities now consider the respiratory virus a significant threat beyond China, where it originated last month. (Wall Street Journal)

Here are some experts from McGill University that can provide comment on this issue:

Health and Medicine 

Anne Gatignol, Full Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Experimental Medicine

“The 2019 nCoV is spreading from human-to-human at a faster pace than the SARS CoV. Though it is less pathogenic, the incubation period remains uncertain (two to fourteen days). While the region of Wuhan is under lockdown to block the transmission, many countries insist on bringing their citizens back. Measures to avoid a worldwide pandemic include close monitoring and limiting the number of contacts for returning people during a short period.”

Anne Gatignol is Full Professor in the Department of Medicine and an associate member of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. She teaches virology and viral pathogenesis, including emerging viruses. Her research is mainly on virus-cell interactions applied to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and the Zika virus.

anne.gatignol [at] (French, English)

Matthew Oughton, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases

There is an emerging coronavirus that appears to have the possibility for human-to-human transmission. Its ability to infect people and the consequences when it does are not yet clearly understood. However, we can learn a lot from other similar epidemics including SARS and MERS to guide our response to 2019-nCoV and prevent a secondary epidemic of fear.”

Matthew Oughton is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and a specialist in infectious diseases and medical microbiology. He is based at the Jewish General Hospital, where he supervises the bacteriology and molecular microbiology laboratories. His research interests are focused on the use of molecular techniques to improve clinical diagnostic assays, with relevant publications on C. difficile, MRSA, influenza, and other pathogens.

matthew.oughton [at] (English)

Raymond Tellier, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases

"The current episode, involving a virus jumping from another animal species to humans, similar to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), is a classic episode of an ‘emerging virus’. We should note that since SARS, there have been other instances involving coronaviruses, such as the MERS in the Middle East, SADS (a disease affecting swine) in China and now the Wuhan coronavirus.”

Raymond Tellier recently joined the Infectious Diseases team at the McGill University Health Centre and was previously an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Infectious Diseases at the University of Calgary. He was part of the research team who first identified the SARS associated coronavirus in Toronto following the outbreak in 2003, in collaboration with several groups in Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver.

raymond.tellier [at] (English, French)

Donald Vinh, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases

Coronaviruses are a huge family of diverse viruses that can infect humans and animals. The longstanding history of these viruses show that they primarily cause mild respiratory or GI illness, but occasionally, a more severe strain emerges to cause serious illness in humans. This Wuhan strain is not surprising, but it is not necessarily the ‘doom & gloom’ that is causing panic for the public.”

Donald Vinh is an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and is an associate member in the Departments of Human Genetics and Experimental Medicine. His research focuses on identifying genetic defects of the immune system that explain why certain individuals are prone to infections.

donald.vinh [at] (English, French)

Politics and Policy 

John Gradek, Faculty Lecturer, School of Continuing Studies

As the world waits on China’s health crisis to further evolve, the commercial aviation industry is developing plans to minimize the spread of the virus. Airlines and airports will be at the forefront of travel measures that might be introduced. What has the industry learnt from the SARS events of 2002/2003 and what might passengers expect in 2020?”

John Gradek is lecturing in the Diploma program in Integrated Aviation Management as well as in both the certificate and diploma programs of Supply Chain Management, Logistics and Operations Management. He has held senior roles at Air Canada in operations, marketing and planning and has worked in the development and the delivery of commercial airline management programs for the International Aviation Management Training Institute.

john.gradek [at] (English, French)

Sandra Hyde, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology

The Chinese government waited too long to reveal that they had the corona virus crisis on their hands. Combined with a very strained medical system, they are managing the best they can.

Sandra Hyde is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and is affiliated with the Departments of Social Studies of Medicine, Transcultural Psychiatry and East Asian Studies. Her research and writing bring anthropological methods to bear on critical public health and the cultural politics of epidemics, which are key areas with practical implications for understanding power, inequality, gender, ethnicity and sexuality.

sandra.hyde [at] (English)

Juan Wang, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science

The handling of the coronavirus showcases the challenges faced by the Chinese government in the age of social media as a source of information, and a rumor mill that perpetuates the social perception of deceitful local officials. The battle for the Chinese government is not only to contain the spread of the virus, but also to address the political origin of social panic.”

Juan Wang is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science. Her areas of interest include state building, informal institutions, contentious politics, authoritarian politics, law and politics and Chinese politics.

juan.wang2 [at] (English)

Misinformation and Fake News

Tina Montreuil, Assistant Professor, Department of Educational & Counselling Psychology

There exists important differences between « neurotic – news-based anxiety » which is characterized by ‘hypervigilance’, rumination, recurring/looping thoughts, excessive worrying and helplessness that contribute to unproductive outcomes; and “normal anxiety” which helps us become more alert, able to cope and protect ourselves in the event of potential outbreaks (i.e., epidemics), as in the case of the latest China coronavirus. The solution is not to avoid or stray away from the news, but rather ensure that we are reading reliable sources of information and more importantly to distance ourselves from often, toxic commentaries or “fake news” outlets. Read, stay informed and focus on what you can do to protect yourself, but avoid becoming overly focused by not paying attention to other important areas of your life. It’s all about balance.

Tina Montreuil is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology and an associate member of the Department of Psychiatry. Her research focuses on investigating the role of emotion regulation, attitudes, and beliefs on the development and intergenerational transmission of psychopathology and how symptoms of mental health problems might interfere with self-regulated learning in a group context and ultimately, educational achievement.

tina.montreuil [at] (English, French)

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