Coronavirus is currently considered as a pandemic according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It has been declared pandemic due to the speedy spread of the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 across the world.
According to the WHO, a pandemic is defined as "an epidemic occurring globally, or over a very extensive area that can cross international boundaries and generally affects a huge number of population." According to the CDC, a pandemic is defined as "an epidemic which has spread over various countries or continents, commonly affecting a large number of population."
In simple term, a pandemic means the "worldwide spread of a new disease."
Many countries are on the lockdown mode, cruise ships are quarantining passengers and crew members, and major technical companies are cancelling events and instructing their employees to work from home.
Phase 1: No animal viruses that are circulating have been reported to cause any infections in human beings. A new type of virus is identified and is examined in animals or humans anywhere in the world that are thought to have consequences on human health.
Phase 2: An animal virus in wild or domestic animals are reported to cause infection in human beings. Rising cases are identified with an increased possibility for human to human transmission.
Phase 3: An animal or person to animal virus can produce sporadic cases or small clusters of disease in population. Incomplete human-to-human transmission can occur in specific circumstances. Cases of the virus are confirmed with both proficient and continual human to human transmission.
Phase 4: Persistent person-to-person spread and community outbreaks can occur. The new virus can infect susceptible population. Public health officials should take measures such as encouraging social distancing, closing schools and colleges and if available offer antiviral medications or vaccines.
Phase 5: Person-to-person transmission in at least two countries within a single World Health Organization region.
Phase 6: The actual pandemic phase is when the human-to-human spread is seen in at least one country outside of the two initially infected WHO region. Even after the pandemic subsides, public health officials continue to monitor and observe the virus and prepare for another wave of disease.
India is in stage II of the Covid-19 or coronavirus outbreak. In this stage, the disease transmission is restricted to only those with travel history to the most affected countries and others who came in contact with the infected people.
Indian Council of Medical Research Director-General Balram Bhargava said that government is taking all the necessary efforts towards halting or delaying the advancement to the next stage. The development to the next stage might sooner or later happen but by halting it, India is trying to make itself well prepared to localize and hold the situation.
He further said that India has about a 30-day window period to stop the beginning of public transmission of coronavirus cases. It is the time for quick action and by all means to prevent the spread.
In stage III, the virus starts spreading throughout the community through human to human transmission. This is soon followed by stage IV and the disease can take the shape of an epidemic, once the continuing transmission has no clear endpoint.
China and Italy are currently in stage VI of the Covid-19 outburst. Bhargava said that the government is taking all the possible control measures to halt the progression of the epidemic to stage III.
Dr R R Gangakhedkar, the chief epidemiologist at ICMR, said that only those with symptoms of coronavirus are being tested presently. Everyone with flu symptoms need not get tested since the spread of the coronavirus disease is limited currently.
Screening is advised only among those with travel history or possible contact with an infected person, and if he or she has symptoms of coronavirus. This is advised for the reason that if the test is conducted in asymptomatic person then the viral load is possibly be less and can result in false negative results. Such individual might get a wrong sense of security and would continue to spread the disease.
ICMR scientists said that the recommendation on screening or testing might chang if there is enough evidence of coronavirus infection reaching stage III.
In the meantime, the number of confirmed cases has reached to 125 in India.
Recipient of Padma Shri, Vishwa Hindi Samman, National Science Communication Award and Dr B C Roy National Award, Dr Aggarwal is a physician, cardiologist, spiritual writer and motivational speaker. He is the Past President of the Indian Medical Association and President of Heart Care Foundation of India. He is also the Editor in Chief of the IJCP Group, Medtalks and eMediNexus