The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 11th March 2020 said that according to its assessment COVID-19 “can be characterized as a pandemic.”
The story so Far:
- 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 i.e. China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea.
- 81 countries had not reported any COVID-19 cases, and 57 countries had reported 10 cases or less.
- In India, the confirmed cases have reached 60.
- Till very recently, the WHO had maintained that the scale of the coronavirus infection, though alarming, was not enough to qualify it as a pandemic.
What is a pandemic?
- According to the WHO, a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease.
- The term is derived from the term Pandemos which means pan (everyone) and Demos (population)
- So it is a concept where there’s a belief that the whole world’s population will likely be exposed to this infection and potentially a proportion of them fall sick.
Impact of Pandemic Status:
- Declaring the disease a pandemic won’t mean the WHO gets more funds or more powers to fight it.
- However, the declaration is a formal announcement that the WHO assesses the impact of COVID 19 to have reached a new level.
OUTBREAK: A sudden rise in cases of a disease in a particular place.
EPIDEMIC: A large outbreak, one that spreads among a population or region. The current outbreak of a flu-like illness caused by a new virus in China is considered an epidemic.
PANDEMIC: Generally refers to an epidemic that has spread on a more global scale, affecting large numbers of people. Exactly when enough places have enough infections to declare one isn’t a black-and-white decision. But generally, the WHO is looking for sustained outbreaks on different continents.
CORONAVIRUS: Term for a family of viruses. Some cause the common cold while others cause more severe illnesses like SARS, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome, and MERS, which stands for the Middle East respiratory syndrome.
COVID-19: Name was given to the illness caused by the new coronavirus first identified in China in late 2019. CO and VI are for coronavirus, D is for disease, and 19 for 2019. The virus itself is called SARS-cov-2.
INCUBATION PERIOD: Time between infection and the appearance of signs or symptoms of an illness. The incubation period for the new virus is thought to be up to two weeks.
QUARANTINE: Restrict the movement of healthy people who may have been exposed to an infection to see if they become ill. For example, the passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan were quarantined.
ISOLATION: Separate sick people from healthy people to prevent the spread of disease. For example, people with the infection are put in isolation in hospitals.
Image Source: Reuters