Health & Wellbeing

Coronavirus deaths cross 3,000 as outbreak enters “uncharted territory”

Coronavirus deaths cross 3,000...
An electron microscope image showing the SARS-CoV-2 virus (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19
An electron microscope image showing the SARS-CoV-2 virus (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19
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An electron microscope image showing the SARS-CoV-2 virus (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19
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An electron microscope image showing the SARS-CoV-2 virus (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19

As global confirmed COVID-19 cases cross 90,000, with more than 3,000 fatalities, the World Health Organization’s Director-General says the world is now in “unchartered territory” but the virus can still potentially be contained.

As of the March 2, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus COVID-19 disease tracker, there have been 90,279 confirmed cases and 3,085 deaths. In a recent media briefing, the WHO’s Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, attempted to put these numbers into context suggesting the global spread of COVID-19 is still relatively small with 90 percent of the total confirmed cases concentrated in China.

“Of the 8739 cases reported outside China, 81 percent are from four countries,” said the Director-General at WHO’s most recent briefing. “Of the other 57 affected countries, 38 have reported 10 cases or less, 19 have reported only one cases, and a good number of countries have already contained the virus and have not reported in the last two weeks.”

The Director-General again resisted calls to declare the COVID-19 spread a pandemic, using the words "outbreak" and "epidemic" to describe the current spread of the virus. Despite the WHO’s hesitations, some countries such as Australia are already activating national pandemic plans with the assumption a pandemic is either already underway or inevitable.

“We appreciate that people are debating whether this is a pandemic or not,” said Director-General Tedros at today’s briefing. “We are monitoring the situation every moment of every day, and analyzing the data. I have said it before and I’ll say it again: WHO will not hesitate to describe this as a pandemic if that’s what the evidence suggests.”

The WHO lays out three stages each country will go through in attempting to curb the spread of the virus, with each stage requiring certain actions to offer the greatest chance of containment. The three stages are: first case, first cluster and first evidence of community transmission.

“There is no one-size fits all approach,” said the Director-General. “Different countries are in different scenarios. More than 130 countries have not detected any cases yet. Some just received their first cases yesterday. Some have clusters of cases, with transmission between family members and other close contacts. Some have rapidly expanding epidemics, with signs of community transmission. And some have declining epidemics, and have not reported a case for more than two weeks.”

Over the past few days, for the first time, confirmed cases of COVID-19 outside China began to exceed the volume of new confirmed cases within China. In a comprehensive interview with Vox, the WHO’s assistant director-general Bruce Aylward, says this means the world can learn important lessons from China as to how to best curtail the spread of the virus.

Of course, Aylward is clear in noting this isn’t a suggestion that countries around the world undertake mass citywide lockdowns as China did in Wuhan. Instead, he believes the most successful measures deployed in the large country were traditional public health responses such as rapid isolation of cases and clusters, alongside educating the population about ways to limit basic transmission.

“Since coming back from China, everybody I talk to begins with, “We can’t lock down a city of 15 million people like China.” I say, “Why would you ever want to?” And I ask, “Does your population know x, y, z [about the virus]?” I learn they haven’t started with the basics. So, No. 1, if you want to get speed of response, your population has to know this disease,” Aylward said to Vox.

Source: World Health Organization

2 comments
Rustgecko
Tedros Adhanom is flying all over the world in first class, running up a huge expenses bill, but refuses to declare a pandemic, and - what good is running up all these air miles doing?
Karmudjun
You'd think Tedros Adhanom actually would agree with the definition of a pandemic - 'evident over a whole country' or 'evident across the globe starting with at LEAST 2 Continents'.

Is Tedros Adhanom waiting for the findings of indigenous SARS-CoV-2 virus in the wild on two continents (which produces the Covid-19 disease) before declaring a pandemic?

Does the word pan-demic which means "across the world epidemic" upset the global economy too much for it to be used until we have 25% of the world population exposed? Will he get in trouble with bankers or politicians for calling it what it is?

I agree - we all need to learn from China that threatened the physicians treating the first strange pneumonia reports shared on social media with other physicians by NOT LIMITING THE INFORMATION OR SERIOUSNESS OF THE DISEASE IN THE WORLD!!! First diagnosis in very early December - no one knew how long the incubation period was or what exactly was causing such a severe pneumonia in a few patients. And we physicians always share our "interesting cases", not something you want to be the patient known for.

If the disease Covid-19 has up to a 14 day incubation period, has some asymptomatic contagious carriers during that incubation period, and does the most damage to those with the most weakened immune systems (the elderly) and those young healthy ones with the MOST ROBUST immune responses (20-40), then this insidious disease needs to be understood.

What we do not need to do is downplay the severity. Unlike a severe pandemic, this seems to have a low mortality in the 1-2% range. Not exactly that range for the 70+ group (nearly 20% in some reports). Like a pandemic, this seems to have a high infectious rate so only a few virus particles may be enough for transmission. So let Tedros Adhanom and Donald Trump say there is a very low risk and this pandemic is NOT a pandemic - hell, let them say black is really white and gold is really lead - it won't change the fact that this easily transmitted, long incubation disease with a healthy contagious carrier phase that will lead to multiple outbreaks and a few very sick individuals weighing down on our healthcare facilities, stretching our resources thin as even the health care providers are susceptible.

It isn't another Spanish Flu just yet. The current influenza going around has a higher mortality - and they are different viruses, so hopefully there will not be a cross-over of infections. Remember your Flu admonitions. WASH YOUR HANDS for at least 20 seconds with real soap, antibacterials won't come close to dealing with the proteins of a virus. Get plenty of rest. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Stay home if you feel "out of sorts". And see someone ASAP if you start having trouble breathing or running a fever. Let everyone you have been around the previous week that you are sick so they can monitor themselves - after all, Tedros Adhanom won't do it since that might make this pandemic appear to be a pandemic!