The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
There are 118,000 cases, more than 4,000 deaths, the agency said, and the virus has found a foothold on every continent except for Antarctica.
"We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. And we have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.
"Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn't change what WHO is doing, and it doesn't change what countries should do."
If countries detect, test, treat, isolate, trace and mobilize their people in the response, those with a handful of novel coronavirus cases can prevent those cases becoming clusters, and those clusters becoming community transmission, Ghebreyesus said.
"Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled," Ghebreyesus said.
A pandemic is defined as the "worldwide spread" of a new disease. Whereas, an outbreak is the occurrence of disease cases in excess of what's normally expected and an epidemic is more than a normal number cases of an illness, specific health-related behavior or other health-related events in a community or region, according to the World Health Organization.
In January, the WHO declared the novel coronavirus outbreak a public health emergency of international concern. CNN announced on Monday that it is using the term pandemic to describe the current coronavirus outbreak.
The last pandemic reported in the world was the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009, which killed hundreds of thousands globally.
"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction," Ghebreyesus said of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
"We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic."