Madrid/ Geneva — With help from hospitals and government agencies in European capitals, the mother of Neeshan Reddy’s baby, who died from a rare form of pneumonia during childbirth, was able to get treatments even in dangerous, remote areas of Mali. But when Ms. Reddy turned to some of the same experts in Geneva to find a treatment for her son’s fiancé, an American aid worker infected with the new virus known as NCoV, she was met with frustration.
On Thursday, the experts at the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders said the pace of infection response from all parties — governments, hospitals, donors and the many experts in diseases like Ebola, which created the precedent for the NCoV pandemic — remained too slow. And the experts called for an international health emergency declaration to help mobilize public attention and aid.
“We have a long road ahead of us,” said Dr. Peter Salama, the deputy director-general for emergency preparedness and response at the WHO.
The report was greeted with renewed hope by some experts who say the beleaguered NCoV emergency strategy could be a milestone in containing the virus, which has so far infected 114 people in Congo and killed 39 of them. And the effort may be picking up momentum as U.S. officials on Thursday decided to join other world leaders in what is expected to be a strenuous effort to contain the new disease, which has created a crisis for the international health system.
But many of the best leaders of the Ebola response after years of watching Ebola take its decades-long toll on the health system in the Central African nation were dismissed by the experts in Geneva, who were more focused on the virus’ rapid spread since declaring an emergency to get treatment to individuals and aid groups.
The experts said the same challenges faced in fighting Ebola had hampered their response to NCoV, including limited staffing, outbreaks of distrust of the health system and limited resources, even in Africa’s impoverished nations.