Italy is grappling with trying to stop an explosive outbreak of the coronavirus, which originated in China, in the northern part of the country by placing nearly a dozen towns on a strict quarantine while top medical experts warn that the virus is nearing “pandemic” levels.
“Officials said on Sunday that a third Italian had died from the virus as the infection count rose to 152, up from just three identified cases on Friday morning, raising fears that coronavirus is spreading at pace through Europe,” the Financial Times reported. “Authorities also closed schools and universities as they struggled to find the source of the outbreak. Large Italian companies, including the bank UniCredit, told employees in affected towns not to come to work.”
The rapidly escalating situation in Italy comes as South Korea is dealing with an even larger outbreak of the coronavirus as 602 people have been infected and at least six people have died.
“Many of South Korea’s coronavirus cases are in the southeastern city of Daegu, which has essentially been placed under a state of emergency, though people are still free to enter and leave the city,” The New York Times reported. “More than half of the people confirmed to have been infected are either members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive religious sect with a strong presence in Daegu, or their relatives or other contacts.”
On Saturday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who specializes in immunology, told CNN that the spread of the coronavirus has hit nearly pandemic levels.
“Well, a pandemic is when you have an infectious disease that is being consistently and sustained transmission from person to person, through a wide range of regions, countries, and areas of the globe,” Fauci said. “So, for example, in China, it’s epidemic because it’s concentrated in China. But once you start to get other countries in which you have sustained transmissibility, then you really have the makings of a pandemic.”
“I think … that we are clearly at the brink of that,” Fauci continued. “Let me explain briefly why. Because our fate is going to be determined by the ability of countries outside of China that have travel-related cases. And now they’re starting to develop sustained transmission from person to person to person. So that right now, it’s not just travel- related cases, so when you get countries like Japan and South Korea that have these cases that are person to person to person without any real ability to point to where it came from, that’s the makings of a pandemic. And if you have multiple countries like that, then the horse is out the barn, and it’s going to be very difficult to prevent more cases from coming here to our own country.”
NBC News reported that there have been at least 34 people in the U.S. have been infected by the coronavirus.
NBC News reported “11 of the those cases are travel-related, two are the result of person-to-person spread in the U.S., and 21 cases are in individuals evacuated from either Wuhan, China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship.”