China reported its first known death on Jan 11, while the world outside reported it on Feb 2, in the Philippines. It was a little more than a month ago that China reported the death toll to 56, which means COVID-19 is reporting deaths almost 50 times more than it did a month ago in China alone.
COVID-19 has 81,109 globally confirmed cases out of which 78,191 are from China. The country witnessed 2718 deaths while the world outside China saw 43 deaths from 37 countries as on Wednesday, Feb. 26. In such a situation the outbreak has a 'potential to become a pandemic', according to WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Epidemic is a sudden spread of a disease than the normal. Pandemic is an epidemic of an outbreak throughout an entire country, continent, or the whole world like the Great Plague.
Mr. Ghebreyesus said "Does this virus have pandemic potential? Absolutely, it has. Are we there yet? From our assessment, not yet," adding that we must focus on containing the virus, while doing everything we can to prepare for a potential pandemic.
Also the word 'pandemic' wouldn't fit the facts, as it would cause fear and "may also signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true". He called for a 'tailored response' in different ways in different parts of the world.
Utmost 70% of Humanity could contract the new virus.
Mark Lipsich, Harvard University epidemiologist predicts that COVID-19 would infect about 40 to 70 percent of humanity, The Atlantic reported, adding that most of those wouldn't have severe illness or show symptoms. "The prevention of COVID-19 infection would prove challenging." said scientists in the medical journal JAMA as they found a case of asymptomatic spread of virus from a patient who had a normal CT chest scan.
The wednesday situation report of WHO says that of the 2,918 cases reported outside China, 86 were detected while apparently asymptomatic. This could mean, unidentified asymptomatic cases can potentially spread the virus in the shadows, which can be a 'historic challenge to contain according to The Atlantic.
"Although for most people COVID-19 causes only mild illness, it can make some people very ill. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. Older people, and those with pre-existing medical conditions (such as high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes) appear to be more vulnerable," adds the WHO report.
Time for collaboration
The unprecedented and fast outbreak of virus demands quick research and faster collaboration among scientists worldwide. Hence, solutions need faster dissemination of new knowledge that may lead to the solution. Preprint servers are already publishing scientific papers even before they are peer reviewed, with warning that the preprint info is strictly not to guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or be reported in news media as established information.
This helps in disseminating research info that is required at a world level for research. The biomedical preprint servers 'bioRxiv' and 'medRxiv' are getting about 10 papers each day on the COVID 19, as reported by Sciencemag.
Dismissing pseudoscience papers has become a major task, as Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Sciencemag, adding that he works late nights to read preprints as "You cant ignore them."
The Lancet journal has also created an online Coronavirus Resource Centre which gives free access to the content related to the COVID 19 outbreak for everyone to make use of. With a fearsome outlook at the outbreak, the world is bracing itself to face the unknown situation.