Is the World Ready for the Next Pandemic?
The number of new diseases that have emerged per decade has been increasing almost fourfold over the past 60 years. The number of outbreaks per year has more than tripled since 1980. The United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently ranks H7N9, a bird flu strain that has been sweeping through China since 2013, as the flu strain with the greatest potential to cause a pandemic, which is a global infectious disease outbreak. H7N9 mostly affects poultry, but it has been spreading to humans and the virus is a killer that has the potential to spread globally like wildfire. Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, states:
Of all the things that can kill millions of people in very short order, the one that is most likely to occur over the next 10 years is a pandemic.
The world has experienced several disease outbreaks the past couple of years such as Ebola in West Africa, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the Middle East, and Zika in South America. Various global health experts are warning that not enough is being done to prepare for the next pandemic and that the system for responding to infectious diseases is broken. The Gates Foundation recently pledged to donate $100 million over the next five years to a major public-private initiative called the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI). CEPI will hopefully help speed the development of vaccines against known diseases, while also investing in next-generation technologies that can counter future threats.
Is the world ready for the next pandemic? No, but hopefully the world will be ready for the next pandemic and more is invested in preventing the spread of deadly diseases.
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