The Chinese coronavirus outbreak might not have been a pandemic just one week ago — but it certainly looks like one now.
The virus originated in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Though it quickly spread to other nations, health experts in late January still considered it to be an epidemic given that most of the people affected were still in one place: China.
Since then, however, the World Health Organization has gone on to declare the novel coronavirus outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern.”
And on Monday, Gregory Poland, the director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, used an even stronger term to describe it.
“We’re basically at a pandemic now,” he told CNBC.
A pandemic refers to an ongoing epidemic on two or more continents. Currently, health experts are treating coronavirus cases in 23 countries beyond China.
Even if the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak isn’t already at the pandemic stage, other health experts believe that it will be soon — and they have no idea what the outcome of that escalation will be.
“It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told The New York Times on Sunday. “But will it be catastrophic? I don’t know.”
Keep up. Subscribe to our daily newsletter.
More on the coronavirus: Is the Coronavirus a Pandemic? Here’s What Experts Say.