The newcontinued to spread apace Friday, disrupting plans for everything from major sports tournaments and concerts to planned U.S. military exercises. The global death toll was over 2,800 and the disease made its first worrying appearance in sub-Saharan Africa.
More than 83,000 cases of the COVID-19 disease have now been confirmed in 53 countries. While about 36,000 of those people have recovered, fast-growing outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran — along with the first case confirmed in Nigeria — show the battle to contain the virus is still in its early stages. Officials have worried the disease could spread widely in countries with weaker public health systems, specifically in Africa and Latin America.
In the U.S., at least 60 people were being treated for COVID-19 as of Thursday, most of them evacuated from Asia. The origin of one case, a woman in California, has been impossible for doctors to trace, leading the CDC to warn the U.S. has likely seen its first case of “community spread.”
The head of the World Health Organization said that kind of transmission, of unknown origin and possibly from the general population, represented the third of four outbreak stages that every nation must be prepared for: “Every country must be ready for its first case, its first cluster, the first evidence of community transmission, and for dealing with sustained community transmission,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
“We are not defenseless,” insisted Tedros, urging “every country and every person” to help ensure cases are detected early and that authorities are able to trace contacts, provide care and prevent widespread community transmissions.