According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease. Pandemics happen when a new virus that spread between people emerge to infect people. Pneumonia of unknown cause was first detected in Wuhan China in 31st Dec 2019.
Since then, the virus causing pneumonia has spread to at least 140 countries with over 173000 infections reported and over 7000 dead. The outbreak was declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern on 30th January 2020.
On March 11, WHO publicly characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic. The virus that causes COVID-19 is easily infecting people and spreading from person-to-person in most countries worldwide.
Earlier on, patients at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China had some links with large seafood and live animal markets, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, a growing number of patients are not having exposure to animal markets, therefore, an indication of person-to-person spread, especially outside Hubei. Surprisingly, some people have been infected and it is not known how or where they became exposed.
The symptoms are ranging from very mild including being asymptomatic to the severity which can lead to death. Current information suggests that most COVID-19 illness as mild with few serious cases, however, older people and people with severe or chronic illnesses such as heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes or those whose immunity is compromised seem to be at higher risk of having serious COVID-19 illness. There is little to non-pre-existing immunity against the new virus, therefore, the population is assumed to be susceptible leading to a worldwide spread.
Increase in deaths and illness
10/03/2020 is 115 965 thousand infections 4 262 deads
11/03/2020 is 119 541 thousand infections 4 615 deads
13 days later
24/03/2020 is 383 944 thousand infections, 16 595 deads
25/03/2020 is 425 493 thousand infections, 18 963 deads
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been comprehensive restrictions on movement and public gatherings to combat the spread of coronavirus. The COVID-19 is rapidly spreading worldwide calling for immediate targeted action, however, the speed at which the virus is spreading can lead to incapacitating outbreaks. The risk of health care facilities being exceeded in high, but can be mediated through the application of effective intervention measures to prevent and control the surge. The risk of transmission of COVID-19 is also high in social and health institutions.
The rapid increase in cases of COVID-19 is expected in the coming days, hence the need for a mitigation approach. Every measure taken should aim at protecting the most vulnerable population groups and reducing fatal outcomes. For example, social distancing measures to reduce the risk of the epidemic and to delay the epidemic peak. Isolation can reduce person-to-person transmission of the virus and prevent further spread while allowing the health care facilities to cope with the patient increased influx. Consequently, suspension of mass gatherings and considering the size of any event including the number of participants. It is advisable that people work from home and to avoid non-essential travel.
Authorities should ensure that the public is aware of the seriousness of the illness and promote training for all healthcare staff as part of the intervention. In addition, the surveillance systems to rapidly detect cases and assess community transmission.
An epidemic occurs when a susceptible population comes into contact with a disease agent. The course of an epidemic is defined by various factors such as the overall number of people likely to be infected or the area under the epidemic curve. An epidemic is the outbreak of a disease that attacks many people almost the same time and that spreads throughout one or several communities while a Pandemic is when the epidemic spreads throughout the world.
The bold approach to contain the virus in China has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic and currently, we see declining case numbers across China. The COVID-19 virus is a new pathogen that is highly contagious, it spreads quickly and is considered capable of causing massive death, economic, and social impacts in any country, therefore, the need to build scenarios and strategies to exploit all possible measures to slow transmission of the virus, reduce diseases, and save lives
There have been four pandemics caused by influenza viruses, smallpox, bubonic plague, and cholera. The outbreaks of these diseases were across international borders with smallpox having killed 300-500 million people. Ebola has killed thousands of people, it is still confined to West Africa and has not been declared a pandemic.
In addition, HIV/AIDs has proven to be pandemic having killed millions of people globally since 1981. Another pandemic is the H3N2 strain of the Influenza A virus in 1968, Asian flu (1956-1958). Pandemics begin with an investigation period, followed by the recognition phase, initiation, and the acceleration phases. The peak of the illness occurs at the end of the acceleration phase which is followed by a deceleration phase marked by a decrease in illnesses. The phases vary among countries, different parts of the country or different countries are seeing different levels of COVID-19. The duration and severity of each phase also vary depending on the characteristics and response.
Aljazeera. (2020, March). Timeline: How the new coronavirus spread. https://www.aljazeera.com
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, March 15). Situation Summary. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/summary.html
European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. (2020, March 12). Novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: increased transmission in the EU/EEA and the UK–sixth update. https://www.ecdc.europa.eu
MPHonline. (n.d.). Outbreak: 10 of the Worst Pandemics in History. https://www.mphonline.org/worst-pandemics-in-history/
The World Health Organization (WHO). (2020, March 11). Rolling updates on coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.who.int
World Health Organization. (2020, February). Report of the WHO-China Joint Mission on Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). https://www.who.int