The coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak which has infected nearly 120,000 people worldwide and at least 122 in Australia is officially a pandemic, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
While the infection was declared an international health emergency in January, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said new designation reflects the disease’s spread and severity.
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva, Tedros said he was particularly concerned “by the alarming levels of inaction.
“We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterised as a pandemic.”
It’s also the first time the WHO has declared a pandemic since the H1N1 outbreak of 2009. But Tedros voiced some optimism in the planet’s ability to fight the spread of the disease.
“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” Tedros said.
“It’s doable,” he added.
.@WHO is deeply concerned by the alarming levels of the #coronavirus spread, severity & inaction, & expects to see the number of cases, deaths & affected countries climb even higher. Therefore, we made the assessment that #COVID19 can be characterized as a pandemic. https://t.co/97XSmyigME pic.twitter.com/gSqFm947D8
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) March 11, 2020
So, what is a pandemic, exactly? Essentially, a pandemic differs from an epidemic as a matter of scope: while an epidemic refers to a defined region, a pandemic essentially means the disease has broken out worldwide.
With at least 114 nations now counting confirmed Covid-19 cases within their borders, the definition appears to fit.
While Tedros the number of confirmed cases is expected to rise worldwide, both he and the WHO remain steadfast the pandemic can be defeated with concerted global action.
What does that mean for you? Well, keep up the precautions already laid out by Australian health authorities, who have asked the nation to be aware of potential infection risks.
In an attempt to minimise the rate of local transmission, Australians have been urged to wash their hands regularly, and use hand sanitiser when possible.
Those who have just returned from mainland China, South Korea, Iran, or Italy – four nations with particularly high Covid-19 infection numbers – has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days from the day they departed.
Of course, if you have come into contact with someone who has the virus, you should also self-isolate for 14 days. If symptoms develop you should call your doc or healthdirect on 1800 022 222.