Daily regional updates are made on PAHO/WHO’s COVID-19 website (https://bit.ly/39qia6q).
Following the initial outbreak of a novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China, rapid community, regional and international spread has occurred with an exponentially growing number of cases and deaths worldwide. As of 25 March 2020, 423,510 cases have been confirmed from almost all countries in the world. On 30 January 2020, the Director-General (DG) of WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern (PHEIC) under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) following advice from the Emergency Committee. The outbreak was characterized as a pandemic by the DG on 12 March 2020, with calls for countries to take urgent and aggressive action.
Disease Transmission: The virus has been identified in environmental samples from a live animal market in Wuhan City, China, and some human cases have been epidemiologically linked to this market. Increasing evidence point to links with other similar known coronaviruses circulating in bats. Epidemiological evidence shows that COVID-19 can also be transmitted from one individual to another. During previous outbreaks due to other coronaviruses, including Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), human-tohuman transmission most commonly occurred through droplets, personal contact, and contaminated objects (fomites). The modes of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus which causes COVID-19 disease) are likely to be similar.
Disease Severity: Current information suggests that the virus can cause mild, flu-like symptoms as well as more severe disease. Patients have a range of symptoms: fever (83-98%), cough (68%) and shortness of breath (19-35%).
Based on current data, 81% of cases seem to have mild disease, about 14% appear to progress to severe disease, and some 5% are critical. Based on the data in other countries, countries of the Americas can expect a similar proportion of severe cases requiring advance supportive care, mainly in intensive care units (ICUs). Risk factors for severe disease are older age and comorbidities. The virus that causes COVID-19 can infect people of all ages, but the risk of severe disease gradually increases with age starting from around 40 years. Evidence to date suggest that two groups of people are at a higher risk of getting severe COVID-19 disease. These are older people (that is people over 60 years old); and those with underlying medical conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer).
Public health measures: In an effort to control the spread of the outbreak, 37 of the 52 countries/territories in the Region have enacted restrictions on international travel since 14 March. Complete border closures have been announced from 25 countries, blocking international travel entirely. Other national measures which have been instituted vary from total lockdown (closure of all businesses except for essential services), nighttime curfew, to recommendations to restrict unessential travel.