OTTAWA — Renowned Canadian epidemiologist Bruce Aylward will be leading a team of World Health Organization experts in China to study the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
Aylward arrived in China today to lay the groundwork for the larger international team tasked with learning more about the virus and China’s public health response to it.
Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, says the team’s mission will be to learn what investigations into the virus have already been carried out in China and to understand what has been one of the largest public health responses in history.
But first, Ryan says Aylward and his team will be looking to the origin of the virus and the severity of the disease.
Aylward is a veteran of past infectious disease outbreaks, having directed WHO’s 2,000-person response to the West Africa Ebola outbreak.
He joined WHO in 1992, and worked in the Middle East, Western Pacific, Europe, North Africa and Central and Southeast Asia in the field of immunization and communicable disease control; he has been responsible for a major overhaul of the way WHO responds to health emergencies.
In China, Aylward and his team of about 10 experts will collaborate with Chinese scientists and public health officials to decide which parts of the country to visit, and which unanswered questions to tackle first.
“We want to learn more about the virus, to learn more about the investigations that have been carried out by Chinese scientists and epidemiologists, to understand the nature of the public health response — which reaches right from the lowest level of the community right the way through the system to the top,” Ryan said.
As of Monday morning, there were 40,554 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, the vast majority of which are in China, and 910 deaths.