Review: Did the hesitancy in declaring COVID-19 a pandemic reflect a need to redefine the term?

This commentary concludes that COVID-19 was not declared a pandemic early enough, which may have affected effective responses.

Pandemics include the following characteristics: a new virus that has not previously circulated in humans, geographically widespread, clear person-to-person spread, and explosive outbreaks with relatively high case-fatality rate. It was clearly the case that COVID-19 met all criteria for some time before the World Health Organization declared the epidemic to be a pandemic. By waiting to communicate about the pandemic, individuals perceived leaders to have lost control and engaged in irrational panic responses. When communicated clearly and early, the seriousness of the situation and the extreme measures needed to address the crisis are more clear and accepted. To avoid confusion, it is recommended that a multi-disciplinary group of epidemiologists, infectious disease specialists, risk communicators, and health administrators convene to create clear, expanded definitions of the terms outbreak, epidemic, and pandemic. Communicating these terms clearly will help provide international coordination and collaboration.

|2020-04-17T08:05:23-04:00April 17th, 2020|COVID-19 Literature|Comments Off on Review: Did the hesitancy in declaring COVID-19 a pandemic reflect a need to redefine the term?

About the Author: Maria Brann

Maria Brann
Dr. Maria Brann, PhD, MPH, is a professor in the Department of Communication Studies in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI and affiliate faculty with the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University. She explores the integration of health, interpersonal, and gender communication. Her translational focus and mixed methods approach are woven throughout her health vulnerabilities research, which advocates for more effective communication to improve people’s health and safety. Her primary research interests focus on the study of women’s and ethical issues in health communication contexts and promotion of healthy lifestyle behaviors to improve personal and public health and safety. She researches communication at both the micro and macro levels and studies how communication influences relationships among individuals and with the social world.

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