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AHF Urges Prompt Action, Full Transparency for Mysterious Pneumonia Strain in China

With the recent discovery of a dangerous strain of unknown viral pneumonia in Wuhan, China, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) urges the Chinese government and the World Health Organization (WHO) to do all that is necessary to identify and limit transmission of the pathogen and to be fully transparent throughout the entire process.

It is currently not known what causes the illness, but signs and symptoms include fever, with some patients having difficulty in breathing and chest x-rays showing invasive lesions of both lungs. Middle East respiratory syndrome, bird flu and severe acute respiratory syndrome – the deadly virus that killed 774 people in China, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Vietnam, Philippines and Hong Kong during a 2002-2003 outbreak – have all been ruled out as the cause of the current strain.

In addition to the 59 confirmed cases of the mysterious pneumonia in Wuhan to date, Hong Kong has also added the virus to its list of notifiable infectious diseases and is monitoring 14 patients as a precaution.

"With China’s New Year holiday season approaching, this is probably the worst time for a dangerous, unknown virus to be going around—it’s critical that in-country health agencies and the WHO go above and beyond to get it under control," said AHF President Michael Weinstein. "China was criticized for under-reporting SARS cases after the 2003 outbreak, and WHO has its own issues with its handling of infectious disease outbreaks like Ebola. We just want to ensure full transparency and a dedicated response for this virus from the outset."

WHO also came under fire for mishandling the initial stages of the Ebola crisis in West Africa in 2014 and has been pressured to ensure a secured, sufficient response for the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo that has been raging since August of last year and has so far killed 2,231 people as of Jan. 6.

"Too often, politics and bureaucracy interfere with the response to an infectious disease outbreak, when the reality on the ground and getting people the most effective and efficient help possible should be the top priority," added Weinstein. "There’s simply too much at stake in a city [Wuhan] with over 11 million people to not ensure this virus is identified and one-hundred percent contained as quickly as possible."

For more information, please contact Ged Kenslea at gedk@aidshealth.org or (323) 791-5526.

About AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.3 million people in 43 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare.

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Ged Kenslea, Senior Director, Communications, AHF
+1 323 308 1833 work +1.323.791.5526 mobile

Denys Nazarov, Director of Global Policy & Communications, AHF