Since it was first discovered in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, health authorities have refrained from labelling the latest COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. Today (March 11) the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told a press conference in Geneva today coronavirus can now be named as a pandemic.
He said: “WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.
“We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.
“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly.
“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.”
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When was the last pandemic?
H1N1, or swine flu as it was popularly known, was responsible for a global influenza pandemic in 2009.
The virus was first discovered in Mexico, before spreading rapidly across the world.
The virus was declared a pandemic by the WHO that year, but on August 10, 2010, the WHO formally declared the swine flu pandemic to be over.
The H1N1 virus circulates every winter, and the symptoms are the same as other types of flu.
However many people are now immune to the virus, and the annual flu jab also protects against it.
The outbreak of the virus was less severe than previously predicted, but many people were infected and some people died.
Over the course of human history, other viruses have been considered pandemics.
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HIV/AIDS is still considered a pandemic to this day, with millions of people infected with the virus across the globe.
In 1918, the world was struck by an influenza pandemic known as Spanish Flu, one of the deadliest outbreaks ever.
The influenza affected more than a quarter of the world’s population in 1918, infecting 500 million people globally.
Estimates differ, but some experts believe between 17 million and as many as 100 million people were killed by the influenza.
Further back, the Black Death outbreak of bubonic plague swept across Europe in the 14th century.
As far as we know, the Black Death originated in China, before spreading through the Middle East to Europe through trade routes in Italy.
The plague dramatically reduced the European population, with some experts predicting up to 60 percent of the population was wiped out.
Other outbreaks of recent years in some regions of the world include Ebola, Zika, Dengue fever and cholera.
Two other forms of coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), have also broke out in the last two decades, with higher fatality rates than COVID-19.
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