In January, the World Health Organization, WHO, declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency International Concern, PHEIC.
What this means is a formal declaration by the WHO of “an extraordinary event which is determined to constitute a public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease and to potentially require a coordinated international response.”
A PHEIC is formulated when a situation arises that is “serious, sudden, unusual or unexpected”, which “carries implications for public health beyond the affected state’s national border” and “may require immediate international action.”
On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, the WHO took matters to the next level when it declared the coronavirus disease outbreak a pandemic.
According to the WHO, a pandemic is declared when a new disease for which people do not have immunity spreads around the world beyond expectations. The declaration of a COVID-19 pandemic has more to do with the characteristics of the disease and concerns over its geographic spread.
Cases that involve travellers who have been infected in a foreign country and have then returned to their home country, or who have been infected by that traveller, known as the “index case”, do not count towards declaring a pandemic. There needs to be a second wave of infection from person to person throughout the community.
Once a pandemic is declared, it becomes more likely that community spread (local infection) will eventually happen, and governments and health systems need to ensure they are prepared for this development.
The shift by the WHO was not totally unexpected, actually, it had long been awaited. There had been numerous calls in various circles for the declaration for weeks.
The WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, during his media briefing for the day, said describing the situation as a pandemic, was to galvanize the world to fight and not to change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by the virus, or to change what countries should do.
In declaring a pandemic, the WHO was “deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and the alarming levels of inactivity. “
The WHO DG urged countries to focus on aggressive containment to focus on control rather than on mitigation in the healthcare system and to avoid apathy.
“If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace, and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of cases can prevent those cases from becoming clusters and those clusters from becoming community transmission. Even countries with clusters can turn the tide against this virus.”
One of the ways WHO hopes the world can beat the pandemic is by educating the people on how to protect themselves, mobilise their public health teams, and ready their medical workforce for the expected onslaught of cases and the need for intensive care.
There are currently two confirmed in Nigeria, and all Nigerians can play a part in preventing the spread of COVID-19 by staying informed.
As at 6am yesterday, March 13, the pandemic coronavirus disease had infected more than 134,769 people and killed more than 4,983 in 127 countries. The numbers are expected to continue to rise.
Over 70,000 have recovered
Despite deaths, people are recovering. At least 70,000 of persons sickened by the COVID-19 have fully recovered. Findings show that most people who become infected experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Even then, some of those who developed severe illness and were hospitalised recovered and were discharged.
Who is most at risk?
Everyone is at risk. You can infect others if you have been infected by the virus and can be infected by others that carry the virus.
There’s still a lot that scientists and doctors don’t know about COVID-19. It is known that people who are infected could have a mild or moderate illness, around 15 percent have severe disease (which requires hospitalisation), and around 5 percent are critical (and go into respiratory or organ failure). Around 3 percent of people with confirmed cases of the infection in China died, according to the WHO.
The elderly: People who are over the age of 60 are at a higher risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19, according to data collected by the WHO. The highest death rate is in people above the age of 80. Around 15 percent of people in that age group died from the disease in one set of Chinese patients.
Children: Children don’t appear to get as sick. Few develop the disease in the first place, and if they do, only a small group develop severe or critical disease. Children might carry the virus around, though, and pass it between each other and then to their parents and caregivers. That’s why they should wash their hands as much as adults.
People with chronic conditions: People who have underlying health conditions like high blood pressure, kidney disease, cancer, or diabetes are also more likely to get very sick or die from COVID-19. People in this group should avoid crowds, stick close to home, and stock up on medication for their condition if they’re able to.
Everyone else: Most people who are young or healthy and who contract the virus don’t get severely ill. But if you have the virus, even if you don’t get that sick, you might come into contact with people who are more at risk and pass the virus to them. That’s why it’s so important to stay home if you’re not feeling well. It’s the goal of policies like school closures and event cancellations and why people who might have been exposed to the illness are asked to isolate themselves.
How to protect yourself
Wash your hands frequently: Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60 percent alcohol content) or wash with soap and running water.
Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser kills viruses and bacteria that may be on your hands.
Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet): distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth: Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
Practice respiratory hygiene: Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately.
Stay home if you feel unwell: If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical care early
If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention. Stay informed and follow advice given by your healthcare provider
If you are in or have recently visited, areas where COVID-19 is spreading over the past 14 days;
Follow the guidance outlined above.
Stay at home if you begin to feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and slight runny nose, until you recover. If you develop fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical advice promptly Call in advance and tell your provider of any recent travel or contact with travelers.
Vanguard Nigeria News