The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, the first to be triggered by a coronavirus and 9jatoday presents us the major things we need to know about pandemics.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus have told reporters in Geneva that the spread and severity of the new and deadly coronavirus, which has infected more than 110,000 people and killed more than 4,000, is “alarming”.
According to Mr. Tedros, WHO is deeply concerned about the levels of spread and severity and the alarming levels of inaction.
While WHO’s concerns are a little daunting, it is imperative that individuals better understand what a pandemic really is.
We have prepared for you 7 important facts that everyone must know about pandemics.
1. Pandemics are global:
The World Health Organization (WHO) simply defines a pandemic as a worldwide spread of new disease.
For a disease to be called a pandemic, it must pose a threat to the lives of many people around the world simultaneously.
When a disease shows sustained outbreaks at the community level in various parts of the world, it will be tagged as a pandemic.
Pandemics are more likely if the virus is new, capable of infecting people easily and can easily spread from one person to another person in an efficient and sustained manner.
2. Most pandemics have an animal influence:
Records show that the majority of viruses that caused past pandemics generally originated from animal influenza viruses.
As was speculated in the COVID-19 case, human contact with other animals was responsible for the spread of many pandemics that threatened the world population.
3. Person-to-person transmission is vital:
Only the World Health Organization has a responsibility to decide whether a disease is a pandemic or not.
According to the health agency, cases involving travelers who were infected in a foreign country and who returned to their country of origin or who were infected by that traveler, known as an “index case”, do not count to declare a pandemic .
For WHO to tag a disease as a pandemic, there must be a second wave of infection from person to person across the community.
It is expected that, once a pandemic is declared, the spread of the community must have occured and transmission will go beyond the immediate community to several other regions.
4. Geographical distribution of disease severity:
The severity of a disease does not really make it a pandemic, which is why cancer is not a pandemic.
Although cancers can be very serious, they are not yet classified as pandemics and this is because, in addition to severity, there is the geographical spread of the disease.
According to the World Health Organization, a pandemic is declared when a new disease to which people have no immunity spreads across the world beyond expectations.
5. Deaths on a large scale worldwide:
The number of deaths from an illness plays a key role in whether it can be called a pandemic or not.
However, there have been cases where some diseases have killed some people within a community or country, but they have not been called pandemics because these diseases were easily contained and prevented them from gaining global reputations (i.e. spreading to other countries or continents).
For example, in 2003 the SARS virus was not declared a pandemic by the WHO, although it affects 26 countries and this is because its spread was contained quickly, and only a handful of nations were significantly affected.
If a disease is to be called a pandemic, there must be sustained and intensive community transmission or large casualties recorded.
While there is no magnitude or intensity that needs to be addressed in relation to the number of infections, deaths or the number of countries affected, it is pertinent to note that these statistics play a vital role in declaring a pandemic.
6. New virus, without immunity:
The total number of people who become seriously ill and eventually die generally varies from one pandemic to another, but what remains consistent is that the impact or severity is always high due to the much larger number of people in the population who are in need of pre- existing immunity to the new virus.
Many of the diseases that end up being pandemics are new.
It is the new and unusual nature of these diseases that makes their spread alarming and leaves room for many to be victims. And because, most of the time, the world has not experienced these diseases before or has not witnessed the new variants, coping with them becomes a problem and large-scale deaths become almost inevitable.
7. Epidemic vs Pandemic:
There have been several debates about the use of the terms epidemic and pandemic, but the difference is not so absurd.
While an epidemic is the sudden increase in cases of a disease or illness that may be unique to a country or community, a pandemic occurs when a disease arises and spreads around the world.
As an epidemic is most often defined as an outbreak of a disease that occurs in a wide geographic area and affects an exceptionally high proportion of a given population, it is not incorrect to say that a pandemic is an epidemic that has occurred. it has spread across an entire country, moved across continents and is reaching the entire world.