More people are being diagnosed with coronavirus outside China than in - another indication that the virus is nearing pandemic status

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More people are being diagnosed with coronavirus outside China than in - another indication that the virus is nearing pandemic status

coronavirus spreading outside china

Andrea Pattaro/AFP via Getty Images

A young tourist wearing a protective facemask and a carnival mask visits the streets of Venice, on February 24, 2020.

  • COVID-19 is spreading around the globe rapidly. It's now on every continent, except Antarctica.
  • In China, however, the spread of the virus is steadily slowing, a sign that the country's draconian containment measures might've worked.
  • The number of new cases of COVID-19 being diagnosed outside China now exceeds the number of cases diagnosed inside the country where the illness originated. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

COVID-19 is rapidly spreading around the globe. It's now on every continent (save Antarctica) with first cases diagnosed recently in Brazil, Greece, and Algeria. 

"Yesterday, the number of new cases reported outside China exceeded the number of new cases in China for the first time," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday. "The primary objective of all countries with cases must be to contain the virus."

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In China, the country where the virus originally hopped from animals into humans in December 2019, transmission of the novel coronavirus peaked at the beginning of February, and has been on a steady decline ever since. 

Outside Hubei province (where the virus originated) just 10 cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in China on Tuesday. But in Italy, more than 370 people are now infected. Iran, where the virus was just introduced last week, has tallied 19 deaths so far. That is the largest number of fatalities outside of Hubei province, where more than 2,600 people are dead.

Scientists aren't sure yet exactly how deadly COVID-19 really is, because it's such a new bug, but initial estimates from inside Hubei province suggest the fatality rate could be around 2%. That is startlingly higher than the death rate of seasonal influenza, and just shy of the estimated death rate that occured during the 1918 pandemic flu, which killed off a third of the world's population. 

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COVID-19 seems to hit the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions especially hard (it's not been diagnosed very much in kids at all yet). Smokers are vulnerable too. 

The virus is most often transmitted through close contact, such as between partners, and in households and crowded places like church. That's why it's most important to wash your hands with soap and water (ideally, for long enough to sing "happy birthday to you" twice), and avoid touching your face, especially around the eyes, nose and mouth, where virus particles could sneak their way inside the body. 

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A chemist wears a protective mask as she waits for customers in a pharmacy in San Fiorano, one of the towns on lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.

Marzio Toniolo / Reuters

A chemist wears a protective mask as she waits for customers in a pharmacy in San Fiorano, one of the Italian towns on lockdown due to a coronavirus outbreak.

"All countries, whether they have cases or not, must prepare for a potential pandemic," Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "We are not just fighting to contain a virus and save lives. We are also in a fight to contain the social and economic damage a global pandemic could do."

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