The World Health Organization’s Emergency Committee has declared the outbreak of coronavirus in China a “public health emergency of international concern.” The declaration is often referred to by its initials — PHEIC, pronounced “fake” — but it gives the WHO real capabilities to affect the course of an epidemic. Governments and companies around the globe are already scrambling to contain the illness, which has shown up in a smattering of cases beyond China. But the move by the global health watchdog could accelerate the response in various ways.

• The declaration sends the message that a health emergency is serious.

• It encourages nations to cooperate as much as possible by coordinating personnel, funds and other resources, with the WHO at the helm.