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Updated March 19, 2020

COVID-19: Global Implications and Responses

As of March 18, 2020, the novel coronavirus that began
sickening patients in Wuhan, China, in early December
2019 had spread across the globe. According to the World
Health Organization (WHO), 15 countries, including the
United States, have reported more than 1,000 infections.
Europe is the current epicenter for cases and deaths related
to the virus. WHO has named the new virus severe acute
respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and
the disease that it causes coronavirus disease 2019
(COVID-19). WHO declared the outbreak a Public Health
Emergency of International Concern on January 30, raised
its global risk assessment to Very High on February 28,
and labeled the outbreak a pandemic on March 11. In
using the term pandemic, WHO Director-General Tedros
Adhanom Ghebreyesus cited COVID-19's alarming levels
of spread and severity and governments' alarming levels
of inaction. President Donald J. Trump declared a national
emergency in the United States on March 13.
T h e V h-k.
Coronaviruses are a large family of zoonotic viruses
viruses transmissible between animals and humans that
can cause illness ranging from the common cold to more
severe diseases such as Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome
(MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
The most common symptoms among confirmed COVID-19
patients include fever and dry cough. As of March 18,

2020, WHO reported over 190,000 confirmed COVID-19
cases globally, including nearly 8,000 deaths (Figure 1).
Many health experts suspect the true case count is
significantly higher. Transmission is slowing in mainland
China, which hit a milestone on March 19 when its daily
report for the first time included no new locally transmitted
cases. New cases are also generally declining in South
Korea, another hotspot. Europe, including hard-hit Italy,
Spain, France, and Germany, now accounts for nearly 40%
of reported cases and 43% of reported deaths. Iran accounts
for 9% of reported cases and 13% of reported deaths.
According to WHO, current data suggest the elderly and
those with preexisting medical conditions (such as high
blood pressure, heart and lung disease, cancer, and
diabetes) are more likely to develop severe illness from
COVID-19. As of February 20, about 80% of surveyed
COVID-19 patients in China experienced mild to moderate
illness, 14% had severe illness, and 6% became critically
ill. In Italy, as of March 16, 59% of confirmed cases
surveyed had mild symptoms.
Current diagnostic supplies are insufficient to meet global
demand, and scientists are trying to create tests that are
cheaper and more easily administered and that provide
faster diagnosis. No specific treatments or vaccines for
COVID-19 exist. On March 16, the U.S. National Institutes
of Health (NIH) announced the start of a Phase 1 clinical
trial of a candidate vaccine for COVID-19.

Figure I. Locations with Confirmed COVID- 19 Cases Globally, as of March 18, 2020

Source: World Health Organization.


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