Story at a glance

  • The coronavirus has spread to at least two dozen other countries since December.
  • Some experts warned earlier this week a pandemic situation is likely.
  • A pandemic is a worldwide spread of a new disease, according to WHO.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has ravaged China and spread to several other countries is not yet considered a pandemic. 

“Currently we are not in a pandemic,” Dr. Sylvie Briand, head of WHO’s Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness division, told reporters in Geneva Tuesday. 

“We are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci,” Briand said. 

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A pandemic is a worldwide spread of a new disease, according to WHO. 

The disease has killed more than 425 people and infected more than 20,000 in China, nearly all of them in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. The virus has also spread to at least two-dozen countries since the outbreak in December.

Briand said while there is rapid spread of transmission in Hubei, outside the province there are mostly “spillover cases” with clusters of transmission. 

“When you deal with an epidemic, you rapidly see that in addition to the epidemic of diseases, we often have an epidemic of information. And this is what we call ‘infodemic’,” she said. “And so we have realized over time that this infodemic could be really an obstacle for good response and hamper effective implementation of counter-measures.” 

Meanwhile, some experts in the U.S. warned this week the outbreak could become a pandemic.

“It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told the New York Times Monday. “But will it be catastrophic? I don’t know.”

At least 190 cases have been reported in over two dozen other nations and territories, including 11 cases in the U.S.

Published on Feb 04, 2020