Coronavirus a global pandemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on 11 March 2020 as the new coronavirus, which was unknown to world health officials just three months ago, has rapidly spread to more than 121,000 people from Asia, to Europe, the Middle East and now parts of the United States. In the past two weeks the number of cases outside China has increased thirteenfold and the number of affected countries has tripled, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the organization’s headquarters in Geneva. In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries to climb even higher.
- Several countries have demonstrated the ability to suppress and control the outbreak, scolding other world leaders for failing to act quickly enough or drastically enough to contain the spread.
- Declaring a pandemic is charged with major political and economic ramifications, global health experts say. It can further rattle already fragile world markets and lead to more stringent travel and trade restrictions.
- WHO officials have been reluctant up until now to categorize the virus as a global pandemic, which is generally defined as an illness that spreads far and wide throughout the world.
- The number of cases and deaths changes by the hour, topping 121,564 with at least 4,373 deaths across the world as of 11 March 2020 morning, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
- Outside China, 32,778 cases across at least 109 countries had been confirmed — up from four cases in three countries on Jan. 21, according to the most recent data confirmed by WHO, which tallies the world’s official case count.
- While the virus is slowing in China where it originated in December, it’s picking up pace across other parts of the world.
- Italy has the most cases outside of China with roughly 10,149 infections, followed closely behind by Iran with 9,000 infections and South Korea with 7,775.
- In the U.S., cases erupted over the last week to more than 1,050 spread across at least 36 states.
What is a pandemic?
- A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new infectious disease.
- It stretches over a larger area, infects more people and causes more deaths than an epidemic.
- In history there have been a number of devastating pandemics including smallpox, tuberculosis and the black Death, which killed more than 75million people in 1350.
- In 2009 a pandemic of swine flu killed 14,286 people worldwide.
- When more cases of a disease than expected are recorded in one area an outbreak is declared.
- The area could be a small community or extend to several countries.
- An outbreak could even be a single case of a contagious disease new to a community or not seen for a long time.
- An outbreak can last for a few days, weeks or even several years.
- Outbreaks can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, animal-to-person contact, or from the environment.
- An endemic is an outbreak that occurs at a predictable rate in a certain area or among a set population.
- Chickenpox is classed as endemic as it occurs at a high but predictable rate among youngsters.
- Endemics remain at a steady state, but do not disappear from a population.
- Outbreaks of disease can be transmitted through person-to-person contact, animal-to-person contact, or from the environment.
- An epidemic will see a disease rapidly spread among a large number of people in a given population.
- During an epidemic the disease will normally spread in two weeks or less.
- Epidemics may be the consequence of disasters of another kind, such as tropical storms, floods, earthquakes and droughts.
- There have been 14 epidemics since 2010, including the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, which killed 11,300 people between 2013 and 2016.
- In 2003 the Sars outbreak was classed as an epidemic - it killed nearly 800 people.
- The declaration of the Coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) by the WHO in February 2020 is aimed at halting the further spread of the epidemic.
- The WHO has asked all countries to be prepared for containment, active surveillance, early detection, isolation, and tracing of contacts of infected people.
- Countries would now have to mandatorily share all such data with the WHO.
- The declaration of PHEIC shows that WHO considers Coronavirus a significant public health threat outside China as well, requiring a coordinated global response.
- WHO, however, has not recommended any travel or trade restrictions on China, though several countries have put out their own travel advisories?
- A few countries have even closed their borders with China, while some airlines have stopped flights to Chinese cities.
- A global health emergency was first declared in 2009 during the time of H1N1 flue pandemic.
- Other instances of PHEIC being declared happened in 2014 for the Ebola virus spread, and in 2016 for the Zika virus outbreak.