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U.S is Hesitant to Declare Coronavirus as a Pandemic

Coronavirus cases have been made to Iran, Italy, South Korea and even in the USA and scientists are unsure of how far would it go.  The World Health Organization (WHO) was initially reluctant to make any statement on its spread, saying the word “pandemic” might shake the world in fear. Earlier this week, WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus shared. “Unless we’re convinced it’s uncontrollable, why (would) we call it a pandemic?”

The virus, which was first reported in China has now spread to all parts of the world. It has even made to Antarctica which has amazed the researchers. It is multiplying on a high rate in countries even with the strongest healthcare system and facilities for the public.

The coronavirus outbreak has met a new milestone which is to infect at least 100,000 people globally. This number is a lot higher than people infected with SARS, MERS or even Ebola previously. The director of Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy from the University of Minnesota, Michael Osterholm says;

“I think it’s pretty clear we’re in a pandemic and I don’t know why WHO is resisting that,”

Experts agree that declaring any disease as a pandemic disrupts the retail markets, trade, and transportation all around the world. The sigma that it creates is a lot scarier than the infection itself. To this day, WHO faces criticism on its decision to declare Swine Flu (2009) as a pandemic. So probably it doesn’t want to “repeat” the same this time.

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WHO has declared coronavirus as a “global health emergency’ in January and also sent countries and international organizations warning notices. It has also released a general set of recommendations and suggestions to control the spread.

As soon as the coronavirus outbreak news spread, many countries including the USA and UK shut down their travel to China. Within a few days, many neighboring countries started to report cases of coronavirus in their territory, leading to restricted border movement with China.

Massimo Galli, a researcher, and teacher from University of Milan says that; “We were the first country to stop flights to China and we were completely surprised by this disease,” and  “it’s dangerous for the entire world that the virus is able to spread underground like this.”

In Europe, most cases are reported in Italy where 3,800 people are infected. It has led to shut down of schools, colleges, and all public places in order to control the spread of coronavirus.

Devi Sridhar teaches global public health at the University of Edinburgh is a member of the World Health Organization (WHO)’s review team of the Ebola outbreak (2014-2016) in West Africa. Sridhar says; “This outbreak meets all the definitions for a pandemic that we had pre-coronavirus,”

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In February 2020, Dr. Mike Ryan, who is the chief of emergencies at World Health Organization (WHO) explained that usually, a “pandemic” is “a unique situation in which we believe that all citizens on the planet” will likely be exposed to a virus “within a defined period of time.”

While many other experts say that they didn’t hear of a definition of a pandemic. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has defined it as “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.”

Considering all these definitions and expert opinions, the coronavirus outbreak is no less than a pandemic. However, there is no final declaration or statement shared in this regard by any office.

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Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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