UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — In October 2014, a man died from the Ebola virus in Dallas. The two nurses who treated him also contracted the virus. A few days later, a doctor who was returning from West Africa was diagnosed with the Ebola virus in New York.
Authorities said there was no reason to stock up on protective suits. Nevertheless, the population was stunned: is this the beginning of a deadly epidemic in the United States?
As far as I know, no. But nevertheless, the US authorities decided to invest in the health care system so that the development of a deadly epidemic does not begin. King of Ebola was appointed; billions of dollars were spent on research and relief efforts in West Africa.
A fairly typical reaction for the government: starting from Zika virus and ending with bird flu, countries mobilize efforts to protect themselves from infectious diseases, although this approach will not bring much success in the case of a rapidly spreading epidemic.
In fact, the world is absolutely unprepared for a potential pandemic. Therefore, a group of prominent political leaders joined forces to form the Global Preparedness Monitoring Council, an independent body to deal with such emergencies. Board members include former Norwegian Prime Minister and Director General of the World Health Organization Gro Harlem Brundtland, Unicef Director Henrietta Foret and Secretary General of the International Federation of the Red Cross Elhaj As Si.
In its first annual report on September 17, the group presented an analysis of how ready the world is for emergency medical care. The results are not encouraging. If a serious virus spreads, like the Spanish flu of 1918, it will take 36 hours for it to become a pandemic. As a result, up to 80 million people will die.
To better describe the seriousness of the situation, the report begins with a description of several current crises in the world. There are threats of the spread of Zika virus, again there is a threat of measles or bioterrorism – one of the worst threats to humanity.
While people perceive pandemics as catastrophic, apocalyptic horror movie scenarios, they have long been a part of our reality, for example, flu, which affects a huge number of people every year and proves how easily the disease can spread around the world and how difficult it is to keep it from spreading at the very beginning.
From 2011 to 2018 WHO has tracked the development of 1,483 epidemics in 172 countries. What worries even more is the likelihood of a new disease.
“Environmental changes lead to the fact that a natural reservoir – a long-term host of a pathogenic organism – affects a person,” said Victor Dzau, president of the US National Medical Academy.
For example, deforestation leads to the fact that a greater number of wild animals begins to come into contact with settlements. As a result, people are exposed to more diseases transmitted from animals. Climate change contributes to the spread of disease.
So world health is not ready to respond to the development of the pandemic.
“For too long, world leaders have responded with panic and neglect to world health emergencies,” Brundtland says. Actions to deal with potential pandemics should be systematic and begin with investments in strengthening the health system in the poorest countries.
The importance of developing resilience in the health system cannot be overestimated: Nigeria was able to contain the spread of the Ebola virus during the West Africa epidemic: Sierra Leone or Liberia were not affected by the relatively reliable level of Nigeria’s health system. Similarly, when in 2018 the virus came to Uganda from Congo, it was quickly destroyed. As poorer countries are more vulnerable to epidemics, richer countries must support their efforts to develop the health system, if only for their own benefit.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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