'The threat of a pandemic has become very real' -WHO

"Now that the virus has a foothold in so many countries, the threat of a pandemic has become very real," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, told a news conference. "But it would be the first pandemic that could be controlled. The bottom line is we are not at the mercy of the virus."

Four countries account for 93% of the nearly 110,000 cases worldwide, Tedros said. "We are encouraged that Italy is taking aggressive measures to contain its epidemic and we hope that those measures prove effective in the coming days," he added.