The world will face another influenza pandemic, although no one knows when and how severe it will be, says the World Health Organisation. The Times reports the pandemic is high on WHO’s agenda this year.
The global health body said the anticipated global influenza pandemic was one of 10 threats identified in its five-year strategic plan. It said global defences against an influenza pandemic were only as effective as the weakest link in any country’s health emergency preparedness and response system. “WHO is constantly monitoring the circulation of influenza viruses to detect potential pandemic strains: 153 institutions in 114 countries are involved in global surveillance and response.”
The report says every year, the WHO recommends which strains should be included in the flu vaccine to protect people from seasonal flu. “In the event that a new flu strain develops pandemic potential, WHO has set up a unique partnership with all the major players to ensure effective and equitable access to diagnostics, vaccines and antiviral treatments, especially in developing countries,” WHO said.
The report says the other threats are: air pollution and climate change, which kill 7m people prematurely every year from diseases such as cancer, stroke, and heart and lung disease; noncommunicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, which are responsible for more than 70% of all deaths worldwide; fragile and vulnerable settings where protracted crises leave communities without basic care; antimicrobial resistance – the ability of bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi to resist these medicines – which doesn’t allow for infections such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis to be easily treated; Ebola and other high-threat pathogens. The Democratic Republic of the Congo last year suffered two separate Ebola outbreaks, both of which spread to cities of more than 1m people; weak primary health care which does not provide comprehensive, affordable, community-based care; vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate, despite the availability of vaccines – currently threatening to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases; Dengue, a mosquito-borne disease that causes flu-like symptoms and can be lethal and kill up to 20% of those with severe dengue, has been a growing threat for decades; and HIV, which continues to rage. Nearly 1m people every year die of HIV/Aids.