WHO warns on epidemic prone diseases that could kill millions.
Our world is facing a mounting threat of epidemic-prone viral disease pandemics that could kill millions and wreak havoc on the global economy, an international expert panel has now warned, and governments should work to prepare for it and mitigate that risk of the scenario.
The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), along with the World Bank and the WHO warned that epidemic-prone viral diseases like Ebola, SARS, and flu are increasingly becoming tough to manage in our world dominated by lengthy conflicts, forced migration, and fragile states.
The threat of epidemic-prone viral diseases spreading around the globe is a real one, the panel said in a report released on Wednesday. It was mentioned in the report that a quick-moving pathogen has the potential to kill millions of people and disrupt economies and can destabilize national security as well.
While some of the governments and international agencies have made efforts to be vigilant and also to prepare for major disease outbreaks since the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, those efforts by them are grossly insufficient, the report said.
Gro Harlem Brundtland who is a former WHO head who co-chaired the board added that the current approaches to diseases and health emergencies are characterized by a cycle of panic and neglect.
The report also cited the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic case, which killed an estimated fifty million people. With a vast number of people crossing the world on planes every day, an equivalent air-borne outbreak of these diseases now could spread globally in less than thirty-six hours and kill an estimated fifty million to eighty million people, wiping out nearly 5 percent of the global economy, the report said.
When a risk of pandemics araises, many national health systems – particularly in poor countries – would collapse.
Axel van Trotsenburg who is the acting chief executive of the World Bank and a member of the panel said that the poverty and fragility exacerbate outbreaks of infectious viral diseases and help to create the conditions for pandemics to take hold.
Calling on governments to “heed the lessons these epidemic-prone viral disease outbreaks are teaching us” and to “fix a roof before the rain comes”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said they should invest in strengthening health systems, boost funds for research into new technologies, improve coordination and rapid communication systems, and monitor progress continually.
The World Health Organisation also warned earlier this year that another pandemic of flu – which is caused by airborne viruses – is inevitable, and said the world should prepare for it.