Updated 11:12 AM EST, Thu February 27, 2020
The novel coronavirus has gone global. What had begun as an outbreak in China is now threatening to become a worldwide pandemic, having reached every continent except Antarctica.
Since it was first identified in mid-December, the virus has killed more than 2,800 worldwide. Though the vast majority of those deaths have occurred in Hubei, the province at the center of the initial outbreak, new clusters are fast expanding outside of China, in countries as diverse as Iran, Italy and South Korea.
In the past week alone, 20 countries confirmed their first cases of the coronavirus, mostly in Europe and the Middle East.
On Wednesday, for the first time, there were more cases reported outside China that inside, according to data from the World Health Organization.
Globally, more than 3,200 cases have now been confirmed outside of China, bringing the total number to more than 82,000.
As anxiety and fear spreads around the world, international authorities are scrambling to contain the virus. Numerous countries are closing borders, placing cities on lockdown, and implementing stringent quarantine measures; Italy has effectively quarantined 100,000 people.
This rise in public fear has seen shops in Italy and other hard-hit regions sell out of medical supplies like face masks -- an echo of the same panic buying that had gripped Asia just earlier this month.
And though the WHO has yet to call the outbreak a pandemic, international experts are warning that people should get ready for such an escalation.
"Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in this country," said Nancy Messonnier, a director at the US Center of Disease Control and Prevention. "It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness."