Next big pandemic can kill 80 million, warns WHO report
A convergence of ecological, political, economic and social trends, including population growth, urbanisation, globally integrated economy, widespread and faster travel, conflict, migration and climate change has raised the frequency and size of epidemics that cause loss of life, upend economies and create social chaosUpdated: Sep 19, 2019 06:38 IST
The world is not prepared for the next big pandemic, which can potentially spread between continents in 36 hours and kill up to 80 million people,disrupt economies, and destabilise national security, according to a new assessment of the global preparedness to confront health emergencies.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has tracked 1,483 epidemics in 172 countries between 2011 and 2018, said the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB)The World At Risk report released on Wednesday.
“Epidemic-prone diseases, such as influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), middle east respiratory syndrome (MERS), Ebola, Zika, plague, yellow fever and others, are harbingers of a new era of high-impact, potentially fast-spreading outbreaks that are more frequently detected and increasingly difficult to manage,” said the report, which is authored by 15 global scientists and public health leaders, including India’s principal scientific advisor, Dr K VijayRaghavan.
A convergence of ecological, political, economic and social trends, including population growth, urbanisation, globally integrated economy, widespread and faster travel, conflict, migration and climate change has raised the frequency and size of epidemics that cause loss of life, upend economies and create social chaos. Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had warned that another flu pandemic was like the H1N1 outbreak in 2009-10 is inevitable.
The report outlines concrete actions to prepare for and mitigate the acute risk of catastrophic global health emergencies.The report recommends increasing country preparedness by raising funding, doing more research into new technologies, vaccines and medicines, establishing rapid communication systems, launching a coordinated government, industry and community response; and following through on international commitments.
“Preparation for pandemic threats calls for high health system capability for prevention, effective surveillance, early detection and containment and appropriate management of any cases. This requires a sufficiently large and well skilled health workforce with public health expertise and well resourced health care infrastructure apart from robust health information systems that can provide early alerts. An adequate investmentis neededin building such a competent health system,” said K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India.
A pandemic equivalent to the 1918 Spanish Flu could kill 80 million and wipe out nearly 5% of the global economy, devastating health systems and hitting low-resourced communities the hardest, the report said.
Though steps have been taken steps to increase preparedness since the Ebola pandemic in West Africa five years ago, current efforts are grossly insufficient, said the report. As of July 2019, 59 countries have developed a National Action Plan for Health Security, yet none of them have been fully financed.
India has handled the threats of Nipah and zoonotic influenza viruses quite well. However, the threat of a devastating pandemic looms large on the world and India remains highly vulnerable. “We need multisectoral actions, led by a well resourced and energetic health system, to keep our population protected,” said Reddy.
The GPMB calls for intergovernmental organisations, donors and multilateral institutions to strengthen funding mechanisms, information sharing and continuous monitoring. It asks multilateral financing organisations like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to integrate preparedness into replenishments, national and international financial risk assessments, incentive systems and funding mechanisms.