The World Health Organization (WHO) has upgraded the status of the COVID-19 outbreak from epidemic to pandemic. Here are 5 important pieces of information on what this means for you and your community. Know the differences between an epidemic and a pandemic
The COVID-19 outbreak was being described by the United Nations health agency as an epidemic. This means that it had spread to many people, and many communities, at the same time. But WHO has labelled it has a pandemic, which indicated that the coronavirus is now a worldwide phenomenon.
The decisions also reflect the World Health Organization’s concern at what it calls the “alarming levels of the coronavirus spread, severity and inaction”, and the expectation that the number of cases, deaths and affected countries will continue to climb.
Do you have to be more worried about COVID-19 Pandemic?
WHO called COVID-19 a pandemic does not mean that it has become more deadly, it is an acknowledgement of its global spread. Tedros Adhananon Ghebreyesus, the head of WHO, said as much at a media briefing held on March 11, when he insisted that the pandemic label does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by the virus:
“It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do”.
Tedros also called on the world not to fixate on the word “pandemic”, but to focus instead on five other words or phrases, beginning with “p”:
- Public health
- Political leadership and
The World Health Organization chief acknowledged that the #COVID-19 spread is the first pandemic to be caused by a coronavirus (i.e. any of the large variety of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases). However, he also pointed out that all countries can still change the course of this pandemic, and that it is the first-ever, that can actually be controlled.
What Should Your Country be doing at this Period
World Health Organization has reiterated its call for countries to detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their citizens, to ensure that those with just a handful of cases can prevent wider spread throughout the community.
There is considerable concern that many countries are not acting quickly enough, or taking the urgent and aggressive action that the health agency says is required.
Even before the pandemic announcement, WHO was advocating a whole-of-government approach to dealing with the crisis, on the basis that every sector, not just the health sector, is affected.
Even countries in which the virus has spread throughout the community, or within large population clusters, can still turn the tide of the pandemic, said Tedros, adding that several nations have shown that the virus can be suppressed and controlled.
What you need to do as an Individual
Whilst it is understandable to feel anxious about the outbreak, WHO emphasizes the fact that, if you are not in an area where COVID-19 is spreading, or have not travelled from an area where the virus is spreading, or have not been in contact with an infected patient, your risk of infection is low. Nevertheless, we all have a responsibility to protect ourselves, and others.
Everyone should frequently
- Wash their hands (and wash them thoroughly, with soap);
- Maintain at least one-metre distance from anyone coughing or sneezing
- Avoid physical contact when greeting; avoid touching our eyes, nose and mouth
- Cover the mouth and nose with a bent elbow or disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing; and
- Stay home and seek medical attention from local health providers, if feeling unwell.
Whilst the virus infects people of all ages, there is evidence that older people (60 and over), and those with underlying health conditions (such as
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic respiratory disease, and
- Cancer, are at a higher risk.
People in these categories are being advised to take further measures, including ensuring that any visitors wash their hands, regularly cleaning and disinfecting home surfaces, and making a plan in preparation for an outbreak in their community.
WHO and other UN agencies have underlined the importance of solidarity and avoiding stigmatizing community members in the face of the pandemic.
“We’re in this together”, said Tedros on Wednesday, urging everyone to “do the right things with calm and protect the citizens of the world. It’s doable.”
You need to know where to get reliable information
The best place to get reliable information is the WHO Website, www.who.int. Here you can find comprehensive advice, including more on how to minimise the risk of spreading or catching COVID-19. The website is currently being updated on a daily basis, so check in regularly.
It is also advisable to check the official Website of your local and regional municipality, which may have specific health information, as well as news concerning your community, such as travel guides, and outbreak hotspots.
World Health Organization has warned that a number of myths and scams are circulating online. Criminals have been taking advantage of the spread of the virus to steal money or sensitive information and says WHO,
if anyone is contacted by a person or organization claiming to be from the Organization, they should take steps to verify their authenticity. The WHO site includes a “myth-buster” section, debunking some unsubstantiated theories that have been circulating online.
For example, it is a myth that cold weather can kill the virus, that taking a hot bath or eating garlic can prevent infection, or that mosquitos can spread the virus. There is no evidence for any of these claims. Go to United Nation’s special page for full coverage of the Coronavirus outbreak
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