IATE Term of the Week: PHEIC

Term of the Week - PHEIC

The World Health Organization (WTO) has declared on January 30 the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).


The PHEIC is defined by the WHO as an extraordinary event which is determined, as provided in the International Health Regulations to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease, and to potentially require a coordinated international response. There are 14 entries for PHEIC in IATE.

The designation of PHEIC was first adopted in 2005. Declarations were announced previously five times for:
(1) the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009;
(2) the outbreak of polio in 2014;
(3) the outbreak of Ebola in 2014;
(4) the Zika virus epidemic in 2016;
(5) the ongoing Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo.


PHEIC - 2This is the sixth time that WHO has declared a PHEIC since its adoption. The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), which was first reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019, has now over 28,200 confirmed cases in more than 20 countries and regions (Statistics from WHO as of February 6, 2020).

The Director-General of WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the declaration was not a vote of no confidence in China, rather it is necessary because of the rise of the cases in- and outside the country. “Over the past few weeks, we have witnessed the emergence of a previously unknown pathogen, which has escalated into an unprecedented outbreak, and which has been met by an unprecedented response,” Ghebreyesus said. “We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it were to spread in a country with a weaker health system. We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility. For all of these reasons, I am declaring a public health emergency of international concern over the global outbreak of novel coronavirus.” With the declaration of PHEIC, WHO will send recommendations to its member states and collaborating institutions aimed at controlling the spread of the disease and providing support for the affected areas. These will include recommended containment measures for local health authorities, and possible future transport advisories designed to mitigating cross-border spread of the disease while at the same time limiting disruption to travel and trade. Instead of arousing panic, the Committee emphasized that this decision is to urge global coordination for a more unified response towards the disease.

Just like what the Director-General said at the end of the report: This is the time for facts, not fear. This is the time for science, not rumors. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.


The term “PHEIC”. IATE. https://iate.europa.eu/search/standard/result/1580715516437/1. Accessed February 3, 2020.
International Health Regulations (2005). WHO. http://www.who.int/csr/ihr/IHRWHA58_3-en.pdf. Published 2005. Accessed February 3, 2020.
Novel Coronavirus 2019. WHO. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019. Published 2020. Accessed February 3, 2020.
Statement on the second meeting of the International Health Regulations (2005) Emergency Committee regarding the outbreak of novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). WHO. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov). Published 2020. Accessed February 3, 2020.
Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) situation as of 6 February 2020, 10:00 (CET). WHO. http://who.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/c88e37cfc43b4ed3baf977d77e4a0667. Published 2020. Accessed February 6, 2020.
McNeice A.. WHO chief praises containment efforts. China Daily. http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/a/202001/31/WS5e3335fba310128217273bff.html. Published 2020. Accessed February 3, 2020.

ZHANG ZichengWritten by ZHANG Zicheng, Study Visitor at the Terminology Coordination Unit of the European Parliament (Luxembourg). She comes from China and studies currently in the trilingual Master Program of Learning and Communication in Multilingual and Multicultural Context at the University of Luxembourg. She likes traveling and language learning.