Scientists say the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak could soon be declared a pandemic. Here’s what that means.

Bill Bostock

Scientists say the Wuhan coronavirus that has so far killed 362 people and infected over 17,000 could soon become a pandemic.

A pandemic is defined as “the worldwide spread of a new disease,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

It’s also defined by a lack of available treatment, a lack of human immunity, and an ability to spread from person to person.

“It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told The New York Times .

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Scientists and disease experts say the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak could soon be declared a pandemic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) designated the coronavirus whose scientific name is 2019-nCoV a ” public-health emergency of international concern ” last week. Calling the virus a pandemic would take it to a new level, however, since that term refers to a more worldwide outbreak.

“It’s very, very transmissible, and it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US’ National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told The New York Times .

Here are the criteria for a virus to be labeled a pandemic:

The WHO defines a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease.”

* A pandemic disease spreads across “several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people,” according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

* Virus outbreaks can be characterized as a pandemic if the disease is “markedly different from recently circulating strains” and if “humans have little or no immunity” to it, according to the UK’s Health and Safety Executive .

* A disease becomes a pandemic when it can infect many humans over a large area, be transferred from person to person, and cause clinical illness, the HSE said.

The term epidemic, by contrast, refers to a more localized or regional outbreak, rather than a global one. That’s what health agencies so far consider the coronavirus outbreak to be.

The CDC says an epidemic is an “increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of a disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area.”

Similarly, the WHO defines an epidemic as the “occurrence in a community or region of cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior, or other health-related events clearly in excess of normal expectancy.”

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