Credit CDC PHIL - Ebola ETU Training
After the 2009 H1N1 pandemic turned out to be less apocalyptic than many in the media predicted, the attention of much of the world moved on from global pandemic concerns to worries about terrorism, climate change, and the slow to rebound world economy.
After all, many reasoned – it had been more than 40 years since the last one - and we’d just had one. Add in the fact that the last three (1957, 1968 & 2009) had all been relatively mild (compared to 1918), and the next pandemic seemed a distant threat.
The pandemic preparedness ethic, which was spurred on by H5N1 concerns in both the public and private sector in the second half of the last decade – has languished. Many of the links on Flu.gov to state and local pandemic planning documents are now dead, returning a 404 error.
Of those that still exist - many haven’t been updated in almost a decade - and too many of those plan only for a mild or moderate pandemic, one where a vaccine will be quickly available.
The surge of MERS cases in the Middle East, along with the largest Ebola outbreak the world has ever seen, and a growing list of avian flu strains (H5N1, H5N6, H7N9, H10N8, etc.) – all over the past 2 years – suddenly has governments, and the public, wondering whether the next pandemic is really still decades away.
Four years ago, in The Third Epidemiological Transition, we looked at the growing momentum of zoonotic diseases around the world, and claims by noted anthropologist and researcher George Armelagos (May 22, 1936 - May 15, 2014) of Emory University, that we are entering an age of emerging infectious diseases.
Since then, the warning signs have only increased:
Last February, in the World Health Organization in Warning signals from the volatile world of influenza viruses stated bluntly that:
Though the world is better prepared for the next pandemic than ever before, it remains highly vulnerable, especially to a pandemic that causes severe disease. Nothing about influenza is predictable, including where the next pandemic might emerge and which virus might be responsible. The world was fortunate that the 2009 pandemic was relatively mild, but such good fortune is no precedent.
It seems that this constant barrage of new global disease threats has begun to have an effect, as a new poll conducted on behalf of The World Bank finds the majority of those polled in the US, UK, France, Germany and Japan perceive the threat of a global pandemic as serious, and that the world is not prepared to deal with a bad one.
July 23, 2015
Publics in France, Germany, Japan, UK, and US Strongly Support Investing in Health in Developing Countries to Reduce Threat
Washington, DC, July 23, 2015 – Citizens in France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States are not convinced that the world is prepared for another global epidemic like Ebola, and they strongly support investments in developing countries to reduce the threat of infectious diseases, according to a new opinion research survey with 4,000 respondents among the general public and opinion elites across the five nations.
As new cases of Ebola continue to emerge in West Africa, twice as many respondents think the world will experience another global epidemic in the next decade as will not, and fewer than half are convinced that their own country is prepared. Nearly 8 in 10 people believe that investing in doctors, nurses and clinics in poor and developing countries helps prevent epidemics from breaking out in their own countries, while nearly 7 in 10 people say that doctors and nurses in their own countries should be encouraged to work in areas with disease outbreaks, outweighing risks of carrying diseases back to their own countries.
The poll, Preparing for the Next Outbreak: Public Views on Global Infectious Diseases, found that nearly 6 in 10 people support investments and policy changes in developing countries that will help protect their own country from global epidemics, while 7 in 10 believe strengthening health care in developing countries will save the world money. The survey followed the statement by G7 leaders in early June in support of an array of global health investments, including creation of a pandemic emergency financing facility to promote better coordinated and more efficient national and global preparedness efforts and help ensure that financial and other support can flow quickly to contain future outbreaks.
“This survey shows that the public sees global infectious disease outbreaks as a serious threat, and they want leaders to take action to prepare for the next potentially deadly epidemic,” said Jim Yong Kim, President, World Bank Group. “This heightened concern also translates into strong support for investments to strengthen health systems in vulnerable countries, as any country with a weak health system puts both its own citizens and the entire world at risk.”
The survey also reveals a high level of concern about global health among publics and opinion elites in these countries. They rank “global health and epidemics” as one of their top global concerns, and view “global infectious diseases” as the global health issue that concerns them most. People have followed the news about Ebola extensively (general public 72%, opinion elites 85%). In the US and UK, where publics were also queried by KRC Research at the peak of the Ebola outbreak last October, the level of interest has remained high (in US, 85% in October 2014 and 82% in June 2015; in the UK, 81% in October 2014 and 79% in June 2015).