The novel coronavirus outbreak has been labelled as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
WHO said it had been assessing this outbreak around the clock and was concerned with the alarming levels of the spread and severity of the disease.
“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” the Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said at a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon.
“In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased to 13-fold and the number of affected countries has tripled. There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives,” noted Dr. Ghebreyesus.
As countries try to institute measures to contain or prevent the outbreak, the WHO boss advised that “all countries must strike a fine balance between protecting health, minimizing economic and social disruption, and respecting human rights.”
Before today’s announcement, many public health experts had argued that the world was already experiencing a pandemic because there were over 100,000 cases and over 3,000 deaths attributed to this new virus.
The virus has also found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica.
A pandemic is generally a disease that is spreading in multiple countries around the world at the same time.
Though in China, where the virus was first detected in December 2019, the rate of spread has reduced with only 19 new cases recorded on Tuesday, the rest of the world has seen cases of the virus increase alarmingly.
Though Ghana is yet to record a case, the virus has taken hold in Africa and has currently been detected in all of Ghana’s neighbours.
Ghana was among 13 priority countries in Africa identified as being at high risk of getting the virus because of their established links with China but a number of the African cases have been tied to Italy, which is the worst-hit European country.
The novel coronavirus is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before.
Like other coronaviruses, it comes from animals and many of the first cases were of people who either worked or frequently shopped in the Huanan seafood wholesale market in the centre of Wuhan.
The novel coronavirus is airborne and symptoms begin to manifest after 14 days.
A person could transmit the disease before symptoms begin to manifest.
Precautions recommended include regular hand washing, using a hand sanitizer, using a nose mask and avoiding contact or proximity with infected persons.
The fatality rate of the virus has not been officially determined but it is thought to be around 2 percent.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
According to WHO, common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties.
The virus can also cause pneumonia in severe cases and even organ failure.
The novel coronavirus is airborne and symptoms begin to manifest after 14 days. An infected person could transmit the disease before symptoms begin to manifest.
How to protect yourself
To prevent the spread, the standard recommendations coming from the WHO is regular hand washing, covering one’s mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs.
We are also advised to avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
WHO has also given more detailed guidelines on how workplaces can put in place proactive measures with the virus in mind.
According to Ghana’s preparedness plan for an outbreak, the state is working along the lines of WHO protocols.
The Ministry of Health has sent out alerts to all regions to update their respective preparedness plans and activate their respective public health management committees.
Ghana currently has testing capabilities for the virus at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the Kumasi Centre for Collaborative Research.
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