Coronavirus news: World on the brink of pandemic, health experts warn

More than 83,000 people have been infected by COVID-19, leading to more than 2,800 people losing their lives. Upwards of 50 countries have reported cases of the coronavirus, with experts warning that it is close to a pandemic.

A pandemic refers to an outbreak which has spread across large swathes of Earth – usually at least an entire country.An epidemic is a disease which is prevalent in a community.

A note in the British Medical Journal said: “A surge in cases of COVID-19 in northern Italy on 24 February heightened fears that the emerging infection has passed the tipping point and the world is on the brink of a pandemic.”

Richard Tedder, professor of medical virology at Imperial College London, said that many cases are currently going undetected, which in turn is leading to more infections.

He said: “The fact that so many potential infections are not being recognised is one of the reasons that a number of organisations feel that antibody testing should be developed and should be developed soon.”

WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said it was too soon to declare a pandemic, stating: “The key message that should give all countries hope, courage, and confidence is that this virus can be contained.”

However, Jonathan Ball, professor of molecular virology at the University of Nottingham, said a pandemic is now looking inevitable.

He said: “I don’t think too many people would argue that we are likely to see continued spread around the world and the eventual emergence of what will be the fifth commonly circulating human coronavirus infection.”

A study from Chinese health officials surprisingly found males are slightly more at risk than females.

The research points out 68 percent of people infected by the virus were males, with the researchers struggling to understand why.

One theory from the researchers, according to the study published in The Lancet, said: “The reduced susceptibility of females to viral infections could be attributed to the protection from X chromosome and sex hormones, which play an important role in innate and adaptive immunity.”

The research also found people who become infected, tend to be middle aged, with the average of 55.5 years.

However, this does not mean younger people cannot become infected, with the research stating that 10 percent of confirmed cases came from people under the age of 39.

Coronavirus also seemed to favour those with pre-existing medical conditions, with the study listing: “Chronic diseases, including cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, endocrine system disease, digestive system disease, respiratory system disease, malignant tumour, and nervous system disease.”

In conclusion, the authors of the research said: “Our results suggest that 2019-nCoV is more likely to infect older adult males with chronic comorbidities as a result of the weaker immune functions of these patients.”

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