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Coronavirus is a pandemic. So what does that mean?

The World Health Organization deemed the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic 50 days after recognizing the new virus COVID-19.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Despite the coronavirus spreading to over 100 countries, sickening tens of thousands, and killing thousands of people worldwide, the World Health Organization (WHO) waited 50 days to call the current outbreak a pandemic.

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom pointed out that while this disease touches many countries, 93% of the cases are in four countries: China, Italy, Iran, and South Korea.

On Wednesday, during his announcement, Adhanom said the number of cases are expected to increase dramatically in the coming days and weeks.

"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly," Adhanom said. "It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death."

The WHO still holds to the fact that the coronavirus outbreak can be controlled, and it is up to nation, state, and community leaders to "prevent cases from becoming clusters."

"The bottom line is: we are not at the mercy of this virus," Adhanom said in a statement. "The great advantage we have is that the decisions we all make – as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals – can influence the trajectory of this epidemic."

A pandemic is defined as something that occurs over a wide geographic area, affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population, according to Merriam Webster.

The current proportion of people infected in each country measured against the number of people in the same country with a cautious estimation of increase in cases raised enough concern for the WHO to call the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

Adhanom also said the fact that China has 70% of coronavirus patients so far recover from the disease is promising that this outbreak can be controlled.

Post H1N1 studies showed populations in some areas had 20% to 40% of people infected with the virus. The H1N1 outbreak lasted roughly a year and four months before the WHO announced the end of the pandemic.

So far, China has only had reported roughly 0.0056% of its population infected with the coronavirus. For Wuhan, China — the suspected origin for the virus — approximately 1% of its population was infected with the coronavirus.

The U.S. so far has had 0.0003% of the population confirmed to have the coronavirus. 

Coronavirus across the globe:

Credit: TEGNA
The coronavirus has spread across over 100 countries on nearly all continents. (Updated: 3/10/2020)



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