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Coronavirus declared a pandemic; but what does it mean?

The WHO declared that Iran and Italy are currently at the frontline of the disease and other countries would soon be joining them if coronavirus spread is halted

twitter-logo BusinessToday.In        Last Updated: March 12, 2020  | 17:47 IST
Coronavirus declared a pandemic; but what does it mean?
Over 120,000 people have been infected

World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the coronavirus outbreak as a global "pandemic". The declaration from WHO came at a time when COVID-19 cases are steadily increasing across the world.

The WHO declared that Iran and Italy are currently at the frontline of the disease and other countries would soon be joining them if coronavirus spread isnot halted.

"We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus while addressing a press conference.

Ghebreyesus urged the entire global community to double down on the efforts to contain coronavirus. "We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear," Ghebreyesus said.

What is a Pandemic

A pandemic is declared by the WHO when a disease or an infection spreads on a global scale. Pandemics are associated with the geographical spread and not any characteristics in the disease or the infection itself.

The WHO for weeks had been saying that it may declare COVID-19 a pandemic but that does not mean the term carries any legal significance. The WHO does not have an exact criterion for declaring a pandemic but the term should not be confused with an outbreak and an epidemic.

How's pandemic different from epidemic

The main difference between a pandemic and an epidemic is of the area in which the disease or infection is spread. In an epidemic, a fewer number of people are affected and the spread is contained to a certain region. While in an epidemic the number of cases is huge and they are spread across multiple countries and regions.

An outbreak is classified as the initial stages of an epidemic when the number of cases increases rapidly.

The word epidemic originates from the Greek word 'epidemia', while the word pandemic originates from the word 'pandemos', which denotes "all people".

An example of an epidemic is the Ebola outbreak, which affected Western Africa and claimed the lives of thousands of people across a few years. The SARS outbreak of 2003 in China was also an epidemic that killed over 800 people.

Recent examples of a pandemic include the Spanish Flu or Influenza, which started in 1918 and took lives of at least 50 million people according to the New York Times. More than 120,000 cases of coronavirus have emerged across the world and over 4,500 people have died because of the deadly virus.

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