World Health Organization officials said on Wednesday that the spread of the coronavirus in more than 100 countries is considered a global pandemic, confirming what many epidemiologists have been saying over the past few weeks.
Until now, the WHO has avoided using the term to describe the surge in the epidemic around the world, for fear of giving the impression that it cannot be stopped and that countries will stop trying to contain it. Earlier during the outbreak, the organization said it would no longer officially declare when an epidemic reached pandemic proportions, preferring instead to declare public health emergencies around the world.
“ Pandemic is not a word to be used lightly or casually ,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of WHO, at a press conference in Geneva.
" We can't say it loud enough, clearly enough or often enough ," he added. " All countries can still change the course of this pandemic ."
But there is now sustained transmission across six continents of the virus, which has infected more than 120,000 people and killed more than 4,300, and by most scientific indicators, the spread qualifies as a pandemic. The designation itself is largely symbolic, but health officials know the public will hear elements of danger and risk in the word.
According to the WHO, an epidemic is defined as a regional outbreak of a disease that spreads unexpectedly. In 2010, she defined a pandemic as "the worldwide spread of a new disease" that affects large numbers of people. The CDC says it is "an epidemic that has spread across multiple countries or continents, usually affecting large numbers of people."
The WHO has not declared a pandemic since 2009, when it gave this designation to a new strain of H1N1 influenza.
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