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Coronavirus boom in Italy puts Europe on edge

Published Feb 25th, 2020 7:06PM EST
coronavirus italy
Image: Kin Cheung/AP/Shutterstock

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As the coronavirus disease COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc within China and its neighboring countries, the impact of the outbreak elsewhere on the planet has been relatively isolated. Unfortunately for residents and tourists in Italy, the country has quickly become a new hotspot, and this week brings a new rash of confirmed cases.

As NPR reports, the latest estimates out of Italy suggest as many as 229 confirmed infections. That makes Italy one of the hardest-hit countries, and at the latest count, the death toll sits at six, with 27 of the infected patients in intensive care.

One of the major issues health officials are dealing with in Italy is determining where the virus first began to spread. The so-called “patient zero,” or the first individual who had the virus in Italy, has yet to be identified. This complicates efforts to contain the outbreak in the country and makes it more difficult for authorities to form a plan of action.

The World Health Organization has yet to declare the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic, which is really just a label and wouldn’t necessarily change the way health organizations are approaching its containment. Still, the fact that the virus has infected close to 100,000 people worldwide and claimed thousands of lives suggests that the outbreak is indeed one of the most serious we’ve seen in recent years.

In any case, the situation playing out right now in Italy could serve as a template for what may occur in other countries if the virus is able to take root and infect a large number of people in a short period of time. Health officials around the world will be keeping a close eye on Italy, and we’ll all be keeping our fingers crossed that they are well prepared to deal with the situation, however it unfolds.