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  • - The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2,

  • and the disease it causes, COVID-19,

  • is spreading across the globe.

  • And as more cases appear outside of Asia,

  • you're probably starting to hear the word 'pandemic.'

  • - The risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us.

  • - [Reporter] Global pandemic.

  • - Could become a pandemic.

  • - [Reporter] With the potential to become a pandemic.

  • - Let's unpack what that word actually means

  • and how you can protect yourself going forward.

  • [light ambient music]

  • So, what is a pandemic?

  • Simply put, a pandemic is a disease that spreads globally,

  • crossing international boundaries

  • and affecting a large number of people.

  • To put that in context,

  • here are a few other helpful definitions.

  • So, firstly, we have this definition of an endemic disease.

  • That means a disease that's occurring

  • at a steady, predictable rate.

  • Then you have outbreak, which means a disease

  • that's spreading well above and beyond endemic levels.

  • An epidemic, on the other hand,

  • is an outbreak that's spread to a large geographical area.

  • Keep in mind that one disease can change status over time.

  • Now, going back to the P-word,

  • the classical definition of a pandemic

  • doesn't say anything at all about disease severity.

  • It's really all focused on geographic scale.

  • So far, the World Health Organization

  • hasn't referred to this as a pandemic--

  • - Our message continues to be

  • that this virus has pandemic potential.

  • - Although many epidemiologists,

  • myself included, are treating it as one.

  • The spread of this new virus, SARS-CoV-2,

  • is likely past the point of containment,

  • and that's the first thing you try to do

  • with a potential pandemic.

  • It's what China was trying to do with massive quarantines,

  • the likes of which we've never seen before.

  • But once you're past that point of containment,

  • you need to quickly pivot to another focus.

  • Instead of trying to stop a disease

  • that's already spread to many different countries,

  • you need to focus on slowing the spread of infection.

  • To do this, you have to properly isolate

  • people who are infected

  • and try and quickly develop treatments and vaccines.

  • It looks at least so far with this new virus

  • that the death rate is a lot lower

  • than other severe coronaviruses.

  • That doesn't mean many people haven't died.

  • We've seen thousands of deaths.

  • But the overall death rate is closer to around 3%

  • for this new virus,

  • whereas the death rate for SARS was around 10%,

  • and for MERS the death rate was over 30%.

  • Now, just because this new virus

  • doesn't seem to have as high a death rate,

  • it doesn't mean that we shouldn't have a plan.

  • So, how do we protect ourselves right now?

  • I know this sounds really pedestrian,

  • but trust me, one of the best pieces of advice

  • is to wash your hands with soap and water regularly,

  • have good cough hygiene, so cough into your elbow,

  • cough into a tissue and then throw it away,

  • and also get your flu shot.

  • I know people are kinda over

  • hearing about the flu at this point, but the reason I say it

  • is that if you get sick with the flu,

  • it massive increases your risk

  • of getting a second respiratory infection

  • like the new coronavirus.

  • Also, you can practice what's known as social distancing.

  • That means simply limiting your exposure to other people

  • by working at home, for example,

  • or if you're in public, maintaining a distance

  • of three to six feet between you and others.

  • I'm getting a ton of questions about masks, understandably.

  • So, here's what you need to know.

  • You need to wear a mask

  • if you have symptoms of respiratory disease,

  • symptoms like coughing,

  • or if you're looking after people who are sick

  • and have those symptoms.

  • You also need to know how to properly use a mask

  • and be aware of things like once a mask is moist,

  • it's not as effective and needs to be replaced.

  • Wearing a mask without full knowledge

  • of when and how to wear it can be dangerous

  • because it gives people a false sense of security

  • about how protected they really are.

  • If you do need a mask,

  • health authorities recommend a regular surgical mask

  • because that prevents droplets from other people

  • coming into contact with your mouth and nose.

  • And if you have symptoms,

  • it prevents those droplets from you reaching others.

  • An N95 mask is recommended for healthcare workers

  • caring for sick people when they're doing procedures

  • that bring more fluid up from inside a person's lungs.

  • That's more dangerous,

  • so that's why an N95 mask is recommended.

  • Bear in mind that with masks, it's not one-size-fits-all.

  • You wanna make sure that a mask you're wearing

  • really is right for you and really is working.

  • One way to do this, ideally you get fit-tested,

  • but also when you put an N95 mask on,

  • you can do a seal test where you breathe hard

  • and you feel to see whether any air

  • is escaping around it or not.

  • A question I get asked a lot

  • is should you wear a mask if you don't have any symptoms

  • just to be really, really safe.

  • The answer I normally give is no

  • because if you wear a mask unnecessarily

  • or you stock up on a ton of them,

  • you're just contributing to the mask shortages

  • that we're already seeing

  • and taking away resources from people who truly need them.

  • So, for now, take advice

  • from what your local health officials are saying.

  • I think what history tells us

  • is that pandemics are inevitable and to be expected,

  • and that's why we really need

  • solid pandemic preparedness plans at national levels

  • and also at family and community levels.

  • To understand just what pandemics are capable of,

  • let's look at a few examples from human history,

  • starting with perhaps the most infamous pandemic,

  • the Black Death or the bubonic plague.

  • Now, this pandemic got its name from its symptoms,

  • specifically lymph nodes that became blackened and swollen

  • after bacteria entered through the skin.

  • Lovely, I know.

  • Now, this isn't the first pandemic, by any means,

  • but it's certainly one of the deadliest.

  • It lasted from around 1346 to 1353

  • and resulted in the deaths

  • of somewhere between 75 million people

  • up to 200 million people.

  • It's mostly associated with Europe,

  • but it's thought to have originated in Asia

  • and then spread across that continent,

  • as well as possibly Africa.

  • There are a few theories

  • about how the disease spread to humans.

  • Some scientists say it could've spread to us

  • directly from rats.

  • Others say there's some evidence

  • that it was actually spread by fleas that lived on gerbils.

  • Let's fast-forward to 1918,

  • and here we run into the Spanish Flu pandemic,

  • which infected one in three humans alive at the time

  • and killed about 50 million globally.

  • It's only called Spanish

  • because Spain was not involved in World War I

  • and it was neutral.

  • Therefore, it did not have news censorship.

  • So, when this outbreak arrived in Spain,

  • that's when it got press coverage,

  • whereas in France and other countries

  • it was not mentioned in newspapers at all.

  • The Spanish Flu killed really quickly.

  • There were approximately 25 million deaths

  • in just the first five or six months.

  • Part of the reason for that though

  • probably had to do a lot with poor living conditions

  • at the time and the fact that flu makes you susceptible

  • for other infections like bacterial chest infections,

  • and back then there were no antibiotics.

  • And unlike what we're seeing today,

  • where it seems that older people