Prelims level : Medicine and Pharmaceuticals Mains level : GS-II Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector or Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
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  • On the light of one of the greatest crisis, Pandemic COVID-19 across the globe, there are different stages of transmission that people need to know.

What are the Stages of a Pandemic?

  • In the First stage of a disease epidemic that eventually takes the form of a pandemic sweeping the globe, cases are imported into a country in which the infection did not originate. An infection whose spread is contained within the boundaries of one or a few countries is obviously not a pandemic.
  • The Second stage is when the virus starts being transmitted locally. Local transmission means that the source of the infection is from within a particular area and the trajectory the virus has taken from one person to the next is clearly established.
  • The Third stage is that of community transmission.

What is Community Spread of the Infection?

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) says community transmission “is evidenced by the inability to relate confirmed cases through chains of transmission for a large number of cases, or by increasing positive tests through sentinel samples (routine systematic testing of respiratory samples from established laboratories)”.
  • In the simplest terms, community spread is when you do not know the source of the infection — you are unable to trace it back to someone who has travelled in an affected area overseas, or got it through contact with someone who is infected.

Why the Third Stage is Worrisome?

  • Community spread implies that the virus is now circulating in the community, and can infect people with no history — either of travel to affected areas, or of contact with the infected person.
  • In a situation of community transmission, it is theoretically possible for every person regardless of where they are from or whether they have been in contact, to spread the infection.

When can it be said that the virus is definitely in the stage of Community Spread?

  • There have to be several cases of untraced infection source to conclude definitively that the outbreak has moved to the Next Level

What is the Fourth Stage?

  • It is when the disease becomes endemic in some countries. Among diseases that are currently endemic in India — meaning they occur round the year across the country — are malaria and dengue.

How does Categorising an outbreak in this Manner Help?

  • The stages of a pandemic are uniform the world over.
  • This is so because in today’s interconnected world, it is important to have a standardised phraseology that conveys the same thing to every person around the world, and helps countries prepare better.
  • The categorisation helps countries take specific actions that are necessary to target just that particular scenario.

Worldwide, in which stage is the COVID-19 Pandemic Now?

  • The pandemic has spread to nearly every country on the planet. In most, though, it is in the stage of either imported cases or local transmission.
  • Among the countries where community transmission seems to be operating are China, Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan.

How should India be Prepared Now?

  • Isolation, and not indiscriminate testing, is the only way India can limit the spread of COVID-19.
  • A lockdown is the most important step in breaking transmission of the infection.
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