Pandemic Potential

April 4, 2021
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The new coronavirus has
“pandemic potential.”

Here’s what a pandemic is…what’s it’s not…and whether the U.S. is ready for one.

Why It Matters:

  • The new coronavirus (named COVID-19) was first detected in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
  • By January, the World Health Org. (WHO) declared it an int’l emergency.
  • COVID-19 has infected 82,000+ and killed 2,800+ in 40+ countries to date.
  • There are now more *new* cases being reported from outside of China than from China, leading the WHO to discuss its “pandemic potential.”

What’s A Pandemic?

  • WHO defines it as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.”
  • The definition is based on the global spread of a disease – NOT its severity.
  • WHO’s Director General determines whether or not to declare a pandemic based on “an ongoing assessment of the geographical spread of the virus, the severity of disease it causes and the impact it has on the whole society.”
  • Recent example: 2009 H1N1 (swine flu).

“We should not be too eager to declare a pandemic without a careful and clear-minded analysis of the facts.”

WHO's Director General says that despite the rising number of cases, we shouldn't refer to COVID-19 as a pandemic. He says calling it a "pandemic carelessly has no tangible benefit, but it does have significant risk in terms of amplifying unnecessary and unjustified fear and stigma, and paralyzing systems. It may also signal that we can no longer contain the virus, which is not true."

Are We Prepared?

The 2019 Global Health Security Index looked at how prepared 195 countries are to prevent, detect, and respond to major infectious disease outbreaks. The results:

  • No country (not even the U.S) is *fully* prepared for a pandemic.
  • U.S. scored far higher than the avg. overall score, *but* our ability to prevent the spread of an outbreak also depends on other countries’ abilities.

“All countries—at all income levels—have major gaps in their capabilities, and they aren’t sufficiently investing in biological preparedness…. The bottom line is that global biological risks are growing—in many cases faster than health systems, security, science, and governments can keep up.”

Nuclear Threat Initiative Co-Chair and CEO Ernest J. Moniz on the results of the 2019 Global Health Security Index.

BIG PICTURE: While approximately 60 Americans are confirmed to have COVID-19, none have died. More than 16,000 have died from the flu since October.

NEW DEVELOPMENTS on COVID 19 – in less than 3 minutes: WATCH HERE

by Jenna Lee,