Coronavirus Outbreak: What are the different stages of a pandemic?

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March 23, 2020 1:40 PM

Coronavirus: India is currently in Stage 2 of the pandemic, according to the Indian Council of Medical Research.

coronavirus outbreak, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus in India, coronavirus cases in India, coronavirus India stage, stages of coronavirus outbreak, local transmission coronavirus, community transmission coronavirus, covid-19Community transmission is the third stage of an outbreak.

Coronavirus in India: The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has been asserting time and again that so far, India has not yet reached Stage 3 of coronavirus pandemic and there have been no cases of community transmission that have come to the fore, as yet. What does that mean? Well, a pandemic has four stages of outbreak. Countries like China, Italy and the UK have already reached Stage 3 of the pandemic, while India’s containment plan has so far managed to keep that stage at bay. However, it is important to understand what are the four stages of an outbreak.

Explained: Four stages of an outbreak

An IE report explains all the four stages of a pandemic.

The first stage, according to the report, is when cases of an infection are imported into a country which was not the source of the infection. In this case, all the countries outside of China which started reporting cases of coronavirus, reached Stage 1 of the outbreak as soon as they reported their first case. If an infection is contained after transmission to only a few countries, it does not become a pandemic, but if it cannot be contained in a short span of time and spreads across the globe, like COVID-19 did, it becomes a pandemic.

The second stage of an outbreak is when there are cases of local transmission in the country, the report explains. This means that the person from whom the infection spread to another person is from the country itself. In this stage, the trajectory of the virus can be identified from the source to all the infected individuals.

Community transmission is the third stage of an outbreak. In this stage, according to the report, it becomes hard to track the chain of transmission of the virus in a large number of cases. This means that the virus has started circulating within the community and can also infect those individuals who have neither travelled to a country affected by the outbreak nor have come into the contact of a person infected by the virus. In this case, a lockdown becomes highly important as any person can spread the virus, regardless of their travel history or the people they have come in contact with.

The fourth stage of an outbreak is when an infection becomes endemic in some countries and keeps resurfacing round the year, like malaria and dengue in India. This is a stage that the Indian government has taken into account in its plan to tackle the virus, the IE report states.

These stages of an outbreak remain uniform across the world to make coordination and understanding simpler, so that countries can be prepared accordingly. Such a categorisation makes it easier for other countries to impose measures that they think will benefit, like India imposing travel restrictions on China quite early in the outbreak. This was because, the report states, at that point of time all the cases of coronavirus in other countries were being imported from China. When the instances of cases being imported from other countries started surfacing, India took a proactive measure of imposing travel restrictions on all such countries and it also started universal screening. Now, as the virus has spread to at least 177 countries, India has banned all incoming international passenger flights, locking down the country from the rest of the world.

While there are no cases of community transmission in India, local transmission is rampant, with at least 415 confirmed cases of coronavirus having been reported from at least 23 states and Union Territories.

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