The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning that COVID-19 in China could turn into a global health crisis. Now there is evidence that supports the fear since the COVID-19 outbreak has spread beyond China. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, says the opportunity is narrowing to contain the outbreak. He says it is important to prepare for any eventualities since the outbreak could go any direction. The epidemic has now hit more than 40 countries.
The dramatic outbreak of Covid-19 in Italy has changed the European leaders’ perception as they try to contain the disease. The disease has now killed more than 2800 people. The European Union can issue advice and coordinate efforts to contain the outbreak, but does not have a formal role in formulating health policy.
As of February 27, the number of coronavirus cases in Italy had risen to 528 (BBC) amid efforts to contain the spread. As a result, countries within Europe have announced new cases traced to Italy. According to WHO, this is the first time the virus is spreading faster outside China. Currently, more than 80000 cases in more than 40 countries have emerged globally since December with the vast majority being reported in China. Germany is also facing the epidemic.
In the past few days, new cases of coronavirus have suddenly been detected in Italy and Iran. However, South Korea is the worst-affected, the country is piling hundreds of new cases each day. The disease has a pandemic potential since it is spreading in multiple countries at the same time. The virus is highly infectious and is spreading really fast. The first cases of coronavirus have been reported in Denmark, Estonia, and Romania. This has led to panic across Europe as the authorities try to contain the outbreak. For example, in Italy, several public events have been canceled and some schools closed, in addition, thousands of people have been quarantined. There are fears of an economic recession due to the outbreak as hotels and cafes are closing.
Preparedness and Response
Countries in Europe are working all fronts in efforts to tackle the COVID-19 epidemic. There is coordination between member states to share information, assess the needs, and ensure a consistent response. Since the outbreak of the virus, the European Union coordinates with other member states through giving early warnings, health security committee and security committees communicators network to offer support cooperation, a quick exchange of information, swift monitoring as well as coordination of preparedness and response measures to COVID-19.
For preparedness, most countries are funding or allocating funds in different sectors to contain the virus. WHO has been allocated funds to boost public health emergency preparedness and response work in countries with weak health systems. In addition, there is continued risk assessment and guidance travel advice.
Virus Spread Rate first Deaths in Europe
Coronavirus is fast spreading in Europe. The number of new cases is increasing in other parts of the world than in China where it began. Italy has registered a 25% surge in COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, especially in the northern region. In Italy, 17 people have been confirmed dead. The majority of the fatalities are in their 80s in Lombardy and Veneto regions in the north.
Italy is the most affected country in Europe so far. Italy is followed by Germany, where there were 27 cases, of which 15 have recovered. France comes third with 18 cases with two people confirmed dead, while 11 have recovered. UK and Spain have 13 cases each and no death has been reported.
The difference between Coronavirus and Flu
Symptoms for both flu and COVID-19 are less discriminatory. Both are viral infections that are characterized by fever and cough. However, the duration of infection varies, for example, the symptoms of uncomplicated influenza last for about 3-7 days and a cough that gradually improves in two weeks. For patients with COVID-19, half of them develop dyspnea in a minimum of 8 days after the onset of symptoms. In addition, patients with COVID-19 have abnormal findings on CT, therefore, a more severe infection than influenza. As a result, the majority of patients are admitted to the Intensive Care Unit with some cases leading to death.
According to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, runny/stuffy nose, sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Consequently, flu complications include pneumonia. With Covid-19, the most common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Few patients experience a sore throat and running nose or nausea and vomiting. Critical cases are those that exhibit respiratory failure, septic shock, or multiple organ failure.
According to WHO, respiratory viruses result in similar symptoms, therefore, can be difficult to distinguish them. To prevent the spread of these viruses, WHO recommends
- To frequently wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections
- Avoid unprotected contact with farm or wild animals
- To practice cough etiquette for example, maintain distance, cover the mouth when coughing or sneezing using a disposable tissue or clothing and wash hands
- To enhance standard infection prevention and control practices in health care facilities, especially in emergency departments.
BBC. (2020, February 26). Coronavirus: Outbreak spreads in Europe from Italy. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com
European Commission. (2020, February 24). The EU`s response to COVID-19. Retrieved from https://ec.europa.eu
Rettner, R. (2020). How does the new coronavirus compare with the flu? Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com
The Guardian. (2020). Europe on the alert as four more COVID-19 deaths reported in Italy-as it happened. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com
WHO. (2020). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Retrieved from https://www.who.int