According to a World Health Organization doctor, a global pandemic is imminent, and no one will be prepared for it when it hits. Dr. Tedros Adhanom, director-general for WHO, has said that the next outbreak that will hit us will be a “terrible” one, causing a large death all over the world.
“Humanity is more vulnerable in the face of epidemics because we are much more connected and we travel around much more quickly than before,” said WHO specialist in infectious diseases Dr. Sylvie Brand. “We know that it is coming, but we have no way of stopping it,” said Brand. According to Dr. Tedros, the flu is extremely dangerous to everyone living on the planet. This fear was also promoted by experts at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last month.
The claims came exactly 100 years after the 1918 Spanish flu that claimed 50 million lives and killed three times as many people as World War I. A mutated strain is the most likely contender to wipe out millions because it can join together with other strains to become deadlier.
“This is not some future nightmare scenario. A devastating epidemic could start in any country at any time and kill millions of people because we are still not prepared. The world remains vulnerable. We do not know where and when the next global pandemic will occur, but we know it will take a terrible toll both on human life and on the economy,” said Dr. Tedros.
Are we facing a coronavirus epidemic or pandemic?
Although the World Health Organization has warned that we could face a coronavirus pandemic, there is confusion over whether a global emergency is upon us. The UN body itself is partly to blame, says Fabian Schmidt.
The World Health Organization (WHO) last week raised the global coronavirus threat level to “very high,” warning that a global outbreak of COVID-19 could be imminent.
But the UN body has yet to officially declare a pandemic — even though many people, including leading medical experts — have been pondering whether a fully global outbreak is nearly here.
Why hasn’t the WHO yet declared a full-scale pandemic until now? The reason, unknown to most of us, is because the Geneva-based institution reformed its six-tier threat level assessment which is used to classify the final stage as the “pandemic phase.”
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The WHO issued its new highest threat level — a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) — with regard to COVID-19 in late January.
That means it is now up to scientists and historians and not the UN health body to determine whether we are, or indeed were, confronted by a pandemic.
So now, national, state-level and regional health care institutions must issue any further health warnings beyond the PHEIC threat level, should they so desire.
DW spoke to numerous doctors and health experts about the new WHO threat assessment system, all of whom were unaware of the changes. This goes to show that national and international health care bodies need to improve their crisis communication.
Desperate for reliable information
Getting your hands on reliable information about the COVID-19 outbreak is challenging. Some national health care authorities, just like journalists, find themselves hunting for trustworthy sources of information. A major state institution recently contacted DW to inquire how we had obtained figures about the global number of coronavirus infections and recoveries. Our answer: from a reputable US university.
It’s a chaotic situation, with reliable data hard to come by. But complaining doesn’t help. Instead, we should accept that with the rapid spread of COVID-19, information that was available yesterday is bound to be outdated today. And determining whether the spread of COVID-19 classifies as an epidemic, could potentially escalate into a pandemic, or already counts as such, is really just a matter of semantics.
The only thing that really matters at this stage is that doctors, health care staff, respective state departments as well as ordinary citizens take the right steps and act responsibly.
For most of us, that means avoiding big events and regularly washing our hands. If we do notice flu- or cold-like symptoms, we should stay home instead of forcing ourselves to go to work.
And if symptoms persist, we should call our local physician to seek advice. Do not go there in person, as this could risk the virus spreading to the medical practice.
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DEFENSE DEPARTMENT EXPECTS CORONAVIRUS WILL ‘LIKELY’ BECOME GLOBAL PANDEMIC IN 30 DAYS, AS TRUMP STRIKES SERIOUS TONE
As President Donald Trump assured the public his administration was properly handling the new coronavirus, a document from the Department of Defense showed that officials are preparing for the possibility that COVID-19 may have a significant global impact.
The warning came as part of Thursday’s Joint Chief of Staff daily intelligence brief and, according to a document obtained by Newsweek, officials expect COVID-19 will “likely” become a global pandemic within the next 30 days.
Officials have expected global cases would spread. On Tuesday, the National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) raised the Risk of Pandemic warning. It went from WATCHCON 2, a probable crisis, to WATCHCON 1, an imminent crisis, due to sustained human-to-human transmission outside of China, according to a report summary obtained by Newsweek.
COVID-19 has touched every inhabitable continent, infecting more than 82,000 people worldwide since it was first identified last December, including potentially 65 people in the United States. Of the cases in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed two were of unknown origin, indicating the possibility of community spread. Then on Saturday, a woman in Washington state became the first death in America.
As COVID-19 continues to spread worldwide, the risk to DoD members deployed throughout the world increases, and one service member has already tested positive. United States Forces Korea (USFK) confirmed Tuesday that a 23-year-old soldier stationed at Camp Carroll, located in Waegwan, South Korea, was the first service member known to have the virus and his wife tested positive on Saturday.
“The DoD is concerned not only the impact COVID-19 has on mission readiness, but the risk to inadvertently spread the virus to the U.S. by returning members who may have been exposed,” a senior Pentagon official told Newsweek.
When asked for comment, Jessica R. Maxwell, a DOD spokesperson, said the DoD has “contingency plans in place and are taking steps to educate and safeguard our military and civilian personnel, family members and base communities in preventing widespread outbreak.” But ultimately, “Commanders of individually affected geographic commands will be and are issuing specific guidance to their forces as their situations may require.”
The military has already taken steps to curb the spread of the virus, including prohibiting service members, DoD civilians and contractors from traveling to mainland China, as well as nonessential travel to South Korea. USFK service members are also restricted from attending non-essential off-installation activities, such as going shopping or to bars and movie theaters and eating at restaurants.
Health officials from the CDC and Department of Health and Human Services maintain the risk to the general public is low, as the U.S. hasn’t seen sustained community spread. But, they’re preparing for that moment and Dr. Nancy Messonnier, CDC’s director of the Center for the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said it was inevitable.
“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” Messonnier said.
The use of the term “pandemic” in the briefing documents described a global outbreak, whereas an “epidemic” would be confined to a country,” a senior Pentagon official told Newsweek. During a pandemic, a large number of people in several countries or continents are affected, according to the CDC.
The World Health Organization has rejected classifying the outbreak as a pandemic, claiming it doesn’t change response measures and can cause unnecessary fear. But, that’s where the situation is headed, according to Messonnier. She said two criteria of a pandemic–a virus causing illnesses resulting in death and sustained person-to-person spread–have already been met and we’re moving “closer” to meeting the third criteria: worldwide spread.
“This is very serious,” President Donald Trump, the commander in Chief, said on Saturday. For members of the military who deploy and travel worldwide, the spread of COVID-19 poses a new risk to their health and safety.
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