The coronavirus outbreak has been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), ONA reports citing E-tib.az
It is a term that the organization had refrained from using before now.
A pandemic describes a disease that is spreading between people in multiple countries around the world at the same time.
WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was now using the term because of deep concern over "alarming levels of inaction" over the virus.
What is a pandemic?
The description is reserved for an infectious disease where we see significant and ongoing person-to-person spread in multiple countries.
The last time a pandemic occurred was in 2009 with swine flu, which experts think killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Pandemics are more likely if a virus is brand new, able to infect people easily and can spread from person to person in an efficient and sustained way.
Coronavirus appears to tick all of those boxes.
With no vaccine or treatment that can prevent it yet, containing its spread is vital.
Note that back to history there were three pandemic cases: Spanish flu in 1918, Asian flu in 1957 and Swine flu in 2009.
It infected 500 million people around the world or about 27% of the then world population of between 1.8 and 1.9 billion, including people on isolated Pacific islands and in the Arctic. The death toll is estimated to have been anywhere from 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million, making it one of the deadliest epidemics in human history. Historical and epidemiological data are inadequate to identify with certainty the pandemic's geographic origin.
Infectious diseases already limited life expectancy in the early 20th century, but life expectancy in the United States dropped by about 12 years in the first year of the pandemic. Most influenza outbreaks disproportionately kill the very young and the very old, with a higher survival rate for those in between, but the Spanish flu pandemic resulted in a higher than expected mortality rate for young adults.
Asian flu of 1957, also called Asian flu pandemic of 1957, outbreak of influenza that was first identified in February 1957 in East Asia and that subsequently spread to countries worldwide. The 1957 Asian flu was the second major influenza pandemic to occur in the 20th century
Why is the term being used now?
At the end of February, Dr Tedros said while coronavirus "absolutely" had pandemic potential it was not there yet because "we are not witnessing uncontained global spread".
What has changed is the number of countries dealing with cases. There have now been 118,000 in 114 countries.
Changing the language does not change anything about how the virus is behaving, but the WHO hopes it will change how countries tackle it.
Dr Tedros said: "Some countries are struggling with a lack of capacity. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resources. Some countries are struggling with a lack of resolve."
He added that the WHO was asking all countries to:
- activate and scale-up emergency response mechanisms
- communicate with people about the risks and how they can protect themselves
- find, isolate, test and treat every Covid-19 case and trace every contact
"We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough - all countries can change the course of this pandemic."