COVID-19, the novel coronavirus first spotted in China, has spread across the globe, infecting people in 114 countries. Now, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stepped in to make an important declaration. COVID-19 is now officially a pandemic. The WHO stresses that it is still possible for countries to stop the spread of coronavirus, but it’s going to take international cooperation and swift action.
The first confirmed cases of COVID-19 appeared several months ago in China’s Hubei province, but it’s possible infections had been simmering at a low level for months before that. Cases shot up in February 2020, prompting the Chinese government to institute harsh public health measures to slow the spread. Despite that, COVID-19 has appeared in 114 countries, infecting more than 100,000 people.
COVID-19 appears slightly more likely to cause death in healthy people than influenza, but the risk of mortality is higher for older people and those with pre-existing conditions. So far, there have been over 4,000 deaths attributed to the virus. The majority of deaths have occurred in China, but Italy has become a new epicenter of infection with more than 10,000 confirmed cases and over 600 deaths. Eight countries, including the US, have reported at least 1,000 cases of COVID-19, and there’s a shortage of testing kits to confirm cases.
“WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “And we have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.” Tedros notes we can still bring the pandemic to an end with effective public health policy. So far, over 90 percent of COVID-19 cases are in four countries, and both China and South Korea have seen success in reducing the number of new daily cases.
The spread of coronavirus has already resulted in the cancellation of large public events like Mobile World Congress, Google I/O, and most recently, E3. The WHO says people should continue washing their hands regularly, and anyone who believes they may be sick with COVID-19 should don a face mask and seek medical attention. The most common symptoms are fever, dry cough, and fatigue. In more severe cases, patients experience shortness of breath and headaches.
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