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WHO Calls COVID-19 A Pandemic, Individual Measures That Can Keep You Safe

(Left to Right) World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus and World Health Emergencies Programme Technical Lead, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove on March 11, 2020 during a World Health Organization briefing on COVID-19 via World Health Organization

Posted: March 12, 2020 at 3:50 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

During the Wednesday COVID-19 (Coronavirus, 2019) daily press conference conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus announced COVID-19 is now officially recognized as a pandemic, upgrading severity from the previous distinction of an epidemic. 

According to the United States of America Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an epidemic refers to a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease in a general population area, while a pandemic is an epidemic that has spread globally and affects a large number of people.

The following are excerpts from the opening statements Dr. Tedros made during the press conference.

WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and 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 characterized as a pandemic. 

Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.

Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.

We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. This is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.

And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled, at the same time. 

WHO has been in full response mode since we were notified of the first cases. 

And we have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.

We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear. 

Dr. Tedros also delivered encouraging news, “As I said on Monday, just looking at the number of cases and the number of countries affected does not tell the full story,” he said before again informing journalists of how centralized the disease is. “Of the 118,000 cases reported globally in 114 countries, more than 90 percent of cases are in just four countries, and two of those – China and the Republic of Korea – have significantly declining epidemics.”

Map Of COVID-19 Outbreak As Of March 11, 2020 via World Health Organization

“We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic,” Dr. Tedros emplored. “If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission.”

Countries without a Universal Healthcare program, such as the United States, are in greater danger of the disease becoming catastrophic due to citizens wanting to avoid the medical bills associated with getting tested, missing work, and possibly losing their jobs.

WHO provides the following precautions individuals can take to protect themselves and others during the pandemic.

  • Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water.
    Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
    Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.
    Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
    Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.
    Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
  • Keep up to date on the latest COVID-19 hotspots (cities or local areas where COVID-19 is spreading widely). If possible, avoid traveling to places  – especially if you are an older person or have diabetes, heart or lung disease.
    Why? You have a higher chance of catching COVID-19 in one of these areas.

According to the March 11th WHO COVID-19 Situation Report, “The virus that causes COVID-19 infects people of all ages. However, evidence to date suggests that two groups of people are at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19 disease,” the portion on risk communication guidance begins. “These are older people(that is people over 60 years old); and those with underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer).”

The section continues, “WHO has issued advice for these two groups and for community support to ensure that they are protected from COVID-19 without being isolated, stigmatized, left in a position of increased vulnerability or unable to access basic provisions and social care.”

Common throughout WHO’s counsel during the COVID-19 outbreak surrounds countries being able to contain the virus if they act responsibly, quickly, and with a sense of community.

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