WHO officials warn health systems are ‘collapsing’ under coronavirus: ‘This isn’t just a bad flu season’

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gestures during a press briefing on evolution of new coronavirus epidemic on January 29, 2020 in Geneva.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

World Health Organization officials warned Friday against dismissing the coronavirus that’s swept across the globe as just a bad outbreak of the flu, saying it has overwhelmed health systems around the world in just a few weeks.

“Take one look at what’s happening in some health systems around the world. Look at the intensive care units completely overwhelmed. Doctors and nurses utterly exhausted,” Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s emergencies program, said at a press briefing from the organization’s Geneva headquarters. “This is not normal. This isn’t just a bad flu season.”

The virus has now infected more than 254,000 people and killed at least 10,444 people across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Last week, the WHO declared that Europe had become the new epicenter of the outbreak, which began in Wuhan, China in December. On Thursday, the number of people who have died from COVID-19 in Italy surpassed that of China.

“These are health systems that are collapsing under the pressure of too many cases,” Ryan said Friday.

CNBC’s Noah Higgins-Dunn and Emma Newburger contributed to this article.

This is breaking news. Check back here for updates.

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