The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has declared a global emergency as the so-called Wuhan Coronavirus continues to spread.
The WHO's declaration came as the number of Novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV cases rose to nearly 8,000 worldwide, nearly all in mainland China.
The W.H.O.'s declaration — officially called a "public health emergency of international concern" — does not have the force of law. But it serves notice to all United Nations member states that the world's top health advisory body thinks the situation is grave.
Governments then make their own decisions about whether to close their borders, cancel flights, screen people arriving at airports or take other protective measures.
Declaring emergencies also adds urgency to any W.H.O. appeal for money. Thus far, that is hardly relevant: The countries most affected — China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, the United States and Vietnam — can afford to wage their own battles against the virus.
Earlier today, as our Carla Sinclair wrote, the first person-to-person transmission of coronavirus was confirmed in the US.