The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said that public health officials are operating in “unchartered territory” as they combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 90,000 people across 73 countries and territories as of Monday evening.
The virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica since it was first identified in December last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. Medical workers are now battling deadly outbreak clusters in South Korea, Iran and Italy, while other countries are working furiously to avoid a similar fate by readying public health authorities, alerting their citizens and enacting travel restrictions to affected areas.
To date, there have been 172 deaths reported outside mainland China, raising the global death toll to 3,115.
Several nations that have seen cases are putting in place measures to limit the virus’ spread: closing schools, encouraging remote work and canceling or scaling back public events, just to name a few.
The WHO has so far held off on classifying the incident as a global pandemic, but has warned it is a possibility in the near future.
“We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the global health watchdog.