From epidemic to pandemic

02 April 2020
Volume 12 · Issue 4

Outbreaks of infectious diseases bring with them periods of great uncertainty. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) (2020) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. In the days and weeks ahead, the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries will climb higher. As events develop, limited resources and capacities are stretched even further, and decisions regarding a public health response are being made quickly, despite limited evidence for decision-making. Public health officials, policy-makers, healthcare workers and public health practitioners require guidance as they make complex bioethical decisions.

Coronaviruses are a large family of common viruses responsible for a variety of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe respiratory infections such as pneumonia. They are ‘zoonotic’, being transmitted between animals and humans. The new strain includes symptoms of cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath. Generally, the symptoms are more severe in the elderly and those with long-term conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease, though the young are not invincible.

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