COVID-19 now a pandemic, says WHO
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The World Health Organisation (WHO) on March 11 said that according to its assessment, COVID-19 “can be characterized as a pandemic” (an epidemic that has spread on a more global scale, affecting a large number of people).

WHO noted with concern that 1,18,000 positive cases have been reported globally in 114 countries and more than 90% of cases are in just four countries. Also, 81 countries had not reported any COVID-19 cases, and 57 countries had reported 10 cases or less.

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death, according to WHO.

-- What is Pandemic?

Declaring a pandemic has nothing to do with changes to the characteristics of a disease, but is instead associated with concerns over its geographic spread. According to WHO, a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations.

-- How does the WHO decide whether to call it a pandemic?

Cases that involve travelers who have been infected in a foreign country and have then returned to their home country, or who have been infected by that traveler, known as the “index case”, do not count towards declaring a pandemic. There needs to be a second wave of infection from person to person throughout the community.

Once a pandemic is declared, it becomes more likely that community spread will eventually happen, and governments and health systems need to ensure they are prepared for that. An epidemic, on the other hand, is a sudden increase in cases of an illness or disease that can be unique to one country or community.

-- When is a pandemic declared?

There is no threshold, such as a certain number of deaths or infections, or a number of countries affected, that needs to be met. For example, the Sars coronavirus, identified in 2003, was not declared a pandemic by the WHO despite affecting 26 countries. However, its spread was contained quickly, and only a handful of nations were significantly affected, including China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Canada.

-- What will it mean for the way the outbreak is treated and prepared for?

The WHO has stressed that using the word “pandemic” does not signal a change in its advice. It is still urging countries to “detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people”.

The use of this term highlights the importance of countries throughout the world working cooperatively and openly with one another and coming together as a united front in our efforts to bring this situation under control.

Source: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen
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