The emergence of this new coronavirus is globally recognized as an important and major challenge for all of the countries which have been affected as well as the rest of the world. The Ministry of Health of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has recognized this and invited the World Health Organization (WHO) to help them assess the situation and to provide guidance and recommendations. WHO is pleased to be here to work together with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
At this time there are some things about this new disease we understand. However I would like to remind everyone that this is a new infection and there are also many gaps in our knowledge that will inevitably take time to fill in.
We know that the disease is caused by a virus from a group called coronaviruses. One member of the coronavirus family is the SARs virus. This new virus is NOT the SARS virus. They are distinct from each other. However, the fact that they are related has added to the world’s concern. We know this virus has infected people since 2012, but we don’t know where this virus lives. We know that when people get infected, many of them develop severe pneumonia. What we don’t know is how often people might develop mild disease. We also know that most of the persons who have been infected so far have been older men, often with other medical conditions. We are not sure why we are seeing this pattern and if it will change over time.
There are many other things that we don’t understand. For example, how are people getting infected? Is it from animals? Is it from contaminated surfaces? Is it from other people? Finally, we don’t know how widespread is this virus, both in this region and in other countries.