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Coronavirus outbreak officially declared a pandemic, WHO says

passengers at LAX wear masks in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak
(Image: © Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic, after the disease caused by the new coronavirus spread to more than 100 countries and led to tens of thousands of cases within a few months.

"We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity [of COVID-19], and by the alarming levels of inaction," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said at a news conference on today (March 11). "We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic."

This is the first time WHO has declared a pandemic over a coronavirus, Ghebreyesus said. He noted that the number of COVID-19 cases reported outside China has soared in recent days, rising 13-fold in the past two weeks. There have been more than 120,000 cases of COVID-19 worldwide and more than 4,300 deaths attributed to the disease, according to Johns Hopkins University.

WHO has been cautious in its decision to declare a pandemic, because the word, "if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over," Ghebreyesus said.

But he stressed that the declaration of a pandemic today does not change the threat of the virus or what countries should do to respond. "We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action," Ghebreyesus said. "We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear."

Ghebreyesus said countries should be working to detect, isolate and treat COVID-19 cases and trace COVID-19 patients' contacts; to protect and train health care workers and prepare hospitals; and to communicate with members of the public about the risks of the disease and how to protect themselves.

There's been so much attention on the word "pandemic," Ghebreyesus said. "Let me give you some other words that matter much more ... Prevention. Preparedness. Public health. Political leadership. And most of all, people," he said. 

The declaration of a pandemic comes more than a month after WHO declared COVID-19 a "public health emergency of international concern."

Originally published on Live Science.

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  • LisaSummit2
    So I just did a rapid figuring. If the WHO is saying they believe it's at least 3% dying of those who get it. Okay, since I see every indication this is going to hit every single spot on the globe. I took 1% of entire population to kind of weed out kids and young adults who seem immune and the 1% became 75,270,000. If this spreads everywhere, which it is--that amounts to possible 75 million deaths. At 3% the number goes up to 228,450,000 . 228 MILLION PEOPLE. Death. Being in a risk group with it seeming to attack ppl with High Blood Pressure and cancer. I possible won't be here in few months. Oh and in perfect age group. Close to 60.
    Reply
  • CParsons
    LisaSummit2 said:
    So I just did a rapid figuring. If the WHO is saying they believe it's at least 3% dying of those who get it. Okay, since I see every indication this is going to hit every single spot on the globe. I took 1% of entire population to kind of weed out kids and young adults who seem immune and the 1% became 75,270,000. If this spreads everywhere, which it is--that amounts to possible 75 million deaths. At 3% the number goes up to 228,450,000 . 228 MILLION PEOPLE. Death. Being in a risk group with it seeming to attack ppl with High Blood Pressure and cancer. I possible won't be here in few months. Oh and in perfect age group. Close to 60.

    It's easy to get caught up in the numbers of it all but try not to do so. Be aware of them, but bear in mind that things are also happening daily to help the situation. I understand you may be in the at-risk sector, but the key thing is you're aware of that and being aware of it means you can take the appropriate actions and precautions to have better control of the situation. Follow the handwashing procedures, don't touch your face, limit your interactions with the outside world if / when / where possible and be mindful of your surroundings and interactions.
    Reply
  • LisaSummit2
    CParsons said:
    It's easy to get caught up in the numbers of it all but try not to do so. Be aware of them, but bare in mind that things are also happening daily to help the situation. I understand you may be in the at-risk sector, but the key thing is you're aware of that and being aware of it means you can take the appropriate actions and precautions to have better control of the situation. Follow the handwashing procedures, don't touch your face, limit your interactions with the outside world if / when / where possible and be mindful of your surroundings and interactions.
    Thank you-- I COMPLETELY understand all of what you said and I have been doing just that. I now am trying to remember things--don't touch your face because evidently a study says we touch our faces ALL DAY LONG. I am not in a panic. I am prepared as is possible. Again, if this gets out of control, more so than it is, it will be people in a panic that make the death rate soar.
    Reply
  • CParsons
    LisaSummit2 said:
    I now am trying to remember things--don't touch your face because evidently a study says we touch our faces ALL DAY LONG.

    You're welcome and yes, we certainly do. It's a bit of a thing I do all the time without really thinking of it. I have a tendency to rub my face, especially after I shave and have had to try and remember to cut it out. Glad to hear you're not panicked about it and prepared. :)
    Reply