New Delhi: The novel coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, does not yet constitute a "pandemic", according to the World Health Organisation. The global health body’s statement is significant at a time when China is battling a serious challenge in controlling the virus amid a sea of misinformation propaganda being spread, leading to panic.
"Currently we are not in a pandemic," Sylvie Briand, head of WHO's Global Infectious Hazard Preparedness division, told reporters in Geneva, according to news agency AFP.
Instead, she said, "we are at the phase where it is an epidemic with multiple foci." The disease has killed more than 425 people and infected a further 20,000 in China, nearly all of them in central Hubei province -- the epicentre of the outbreak -- and spread to two-dozen countries since it emerged in December.
Authorities in China have taken dramatic measures to halt transmission, while other affected countries have also taken steps to avoid the spread of the virus.
Till now, Chinese authorities have confirmed 20,471 cases in China with 426 deaths. The characteristics of the novel virus that has appeared, is its rapid spread, which is was not likely in the case with other viruses of the corona family, like the SARS and MERS virus – which created an epidemic in many countries a few years ago.
Human to human transmission of novel coronavirus has been confirmed and during its relatively long incubation period (of about 14 days) also it can spread. That has made things difficult. But one good thing is that mortality rate due to the infection of this novel virus is little less in comparison to the SARS.
China’s Health Commission on Tuesday reported that there were 630 recoveries and more than 420 deaths nationwide. Health experts said that the steady rise of recovery has encouraged them, the number of people who have recovered nationwide has risen in recent days. The recovery is seen as an evidence of effectiveness of the treatments meted out.
Interestingly, SARS had a mortality rate of 9.6% and the novel coronavirus has a mortality rate of 2%.
China’s Wuhan city of the Hubei province has become the epicentre of the recent epidemic and Chinese authorities have kept almost the entire Hubei province, which is home to tens of millions of people, under lockdown. This is essential to stop spreading the deadly virus to other places.
Meanwhile, the virus has infected some 23 countries and over 150 have been reported to have contracted the virus outside China with one death reported in Hong Kong.