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What is a Pandemic & How Do You Prepare for One?

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Has COVID-19 reached a tipping level? The World Well being Group is reporting that it has spread to 77 countries, and the global total number of cases is more than 93,000. Greater than 85 p.c of these instances are in China, and a lot of the others are within the Republic of Korea, Italy and Iran.

After all, Canada will not be immune, with 33 instances confirmed right here, throughout three provinces: Ontario, B.C. and Quebec. And there are now at least 125 cases in more than a dozen states in the U.S., with 9 deaths on the time this put up was printed—all of which have occurred within the state of Washington.

The World Well being Group says it’s still possible for the spread of the coronavirus to be contained, and it has not declared the state of affairs a pandemic—but. However specialists agree we’re on the cusp of the outbreak turning into one. However what does a pandemic imply, precisely—and how will you put together for one?

What’s a pandemic?

A pandemic refers to the worldwide spread of a disease—however there is no such thing as a precise threshold for when one is named. Above all, it’s necessary to do not forget that a pandemic is generally about how a lot a illness has unfold—not how lethal the sickness is.

“[For a pandemic to be declared], there must be ongoing unfold in numerous totally different areas across the globe, and affecting massive numbers of individuals,” says Dr. Srinivas Murthy, a medical pediatrics professor at College of British Columbia.

The World Well being Group is in control of declaring when COVID-19 has develop into a pandemic. Proper now, public well being companies in Canada have been in a position to observe the unfold of the coronavirus—they know which contaminated folks introduced it into the nation, and so they can isolate these folks and the individuals who dwell with them. If the unfold turns into uncontrolled—infecting massive numbers of individuals with out public well being companies with the ability to observe it—throughout many nations, it should seemingly be declared a pandemic, and the well being care system may swap its focus from containing the virus to slowing its unfold.

However that swap doesn’t occur simply because a pandemic is said. Dr. Michael J. Ryan, Govt Director of the World Well being Group’s Well being Emergencies Programme, emphasized in a press conference on Tuesday morning that calling the coronavirus a pandemic wouldn’t imply a change in how nations ought to react. “There’s a really harmful and I feel unhelpful alignment in folks’s minds between this pandemic phrase and a few form of main shift in method. This isn’t the case,” he mentioned.

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How harmful is COVID-19?

For most individuals, COVID-19 will really feel just like the chilly or flu, and they’re going to get higher inside six days. You won’t even understand you’ve it. Signs embody a fever, cough, and issue respiratory, although it might progress into pneumonia.

However COVID-19 is extra severe than the chilly or the flu as a result of it’s extra lethal—whereas it’s tough to know precisely how lethal it’s, the novel coronavirus has killed a reported 3.4 percent of recognized instances. The flu kills about 0.1% of people it infects. The aged and other people with different medical points are particularly weak to COVID-19, whereas youngsters don’t appear to be as affected—a latest examine checked out 400 contaminated children underneath 10 and located none died. Being handled early helps enhance the possibilities of restoration.

How can I defend myself?

Although it doesn’t appear to unfold as rapidly because the flu, the coronavirus spreads in the identical method the flu does—via droplets which are shared when contaminated folks cough and sneeze. You possibly can defend your self utilizing the identical measures as you do to forestall the flu: “Wash your arms, keep dwelling from work if you’re sick, and attain out if you happen to want extra care,” says Murthy.

Be sure to wash your arms appropriately, rubbing them along with cleaning soap and water for at the very least 20 seconds. If you happen to don’t have entry to cleaning soap and water, use alcohol-based sanitizer with at the very least 60 p.c alcohol as an alternative.

At dwelling, disinfect surfaces that individuals recurrently contact, like bathrooms, bedside tables, doorknobs, toys, telephones and TV remotes. (You possibly can combine one half bleach with 9 components water to disinfect surfaces.) Contemplate skipping handshakes and hugs while you greet folks.

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If the WHO does declare a pandemic, what is going to change?

“It’s the identical ranges of preparedness and menace response as earlier than,” says Murthy. Proper now, Canada is targeted on catching all of the instances and educating the general public concerning the illness.

To organize in case the coronavirus turns into widespread, replenish on provides so that you simply don’t want to go away the home if somebody is sick.

That features filling your pantry with non-perishable meals like pasta and soup, shopping for frozen meals and greens, and getting further rest room paper, tissue paper, female hygiene merchandise, laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent, rubbish baggage, and diapers or components in case you have younger children. It may also embody getting refills on common prescriptions—so you may keep away from the pharmacy—or shopping for further pet meals.

Additionally, you will want further provides to handle the one who is sick. That features cleaning soap, alcohol-based hand sanitizer, paper towels, remedy for fevers, and disinfecting cleaner or bleach, to disinfect surfaces.

If extra instances emerge and the virus begins to unfold extra rapidly, provincial health-care techniques may advocate staying dwelling from work or closing colleges in affected areas. And if it will increase even additional, festivals, sports activities occasions, and different large-scale gatherings could be cancelled.

If COVID-19 turns into extra frequent, you may need to keep away from crowds by altering your commute time, working from dwelling, or altering while you go grocery buying or to the pharmacy to much less busy occasions of day.

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How far are we from a vaccine?

“There’s quite a lot of effort being spent on creating a vaccine, but it surely’s most likely a very good interval away—most likely one other 12 months or so,” says Murthy. Antivirals, which could assist decrease the demise charge from the coronavirus, are being examined to see if particular sorts are efficient in opposition to the illness, and could be accessible sooner.

Ought to I cancel my journey plans?

“It’s region-specific,” says Murthy. “Going throughout Canada appears to be greater than protected proper now. All over the world, there are different patches [of outbreaks]. These locations can be decrease on my listing.” There are journey advisories up to date in actual time at Proper now, the federal government is advising Canadians keep away from non-essential travel to China and all travel to the Chinese province of Hubei.

It is usually now recommending Canadians keep away from non-essential travel to Iran, northern Italy and some regions of South Korea.

Even when your vacation spot isn’t in a high-risk space, Murthy recommends asking your self just a few questions: “Do you’ve journey insurance coverage, will it cowl you; are you keen to danger being quarantined for a time frame after you come again?” he says.

Lastly, in case you have travelled and have COVID-19 signs inside 14 days of your return, name public well being in your space and ask them what to do (the numbers are found here.)

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