Why global killer dis­ease is im­mi­nent, ex­perts warn

The Guardian (Nigeria) - - HEALTH NEWS -

FEARS of a global pan­demic are mount­ing as ex­perts have warned there will be ‘no way to stop’ a killer dis­ease from claim­ing mil­lions of lives.

The con­cerns, raised at the an­nual World Eco­nomic Fo­rum in Davos, come ex­actly 100 years after the 1918 Span­ish flu that claimed 50 mil­lion lives.

The H1N1 virus killed three times as many peo­ple as World War I and did it quicker than any other ill­ness in recorded his­tory.

And now lead­ing names, speak­ing a cen­tury on, have warned an­other pan­demic is un­avoid­able amid the ease of in­ter­na­tional travel.

A mu­tated flu virus poses the big­gest threat, they re­vealed at the Swiss sum­mit, be­cause it can join to­gether with other strains to be­come dead­lier.

El­hadj As Sy, sec­re­tary gen­eral of the In­ter­na­tional Fed­er­a­tion of Red Cross and Red Cres­cent So­ci­eties, told AFP: “Pan­demics are be­com- ing a real threat to hu­man­ity.”

Dr. Sylvie Briand, a spe­cial­ist in in­fec­tious dis­eases at the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion, added: “We know that it is com­ing, but we have no way of stop­ping it.”

The pair were speak­ing of their con­cerns at a Davos dis­cus­sion called “Are We Ready For The Next Pan­demic?”.

Briand added: “The flu is a res­pi­ra­tory virus that is eas­ily trans­mit­ted and peo­ple can be con­ta­gious even be­fore they show symp­toms, so it is not easy to con­trol.”

Its nu­mer­ous forms are also able to ‘marry’ one an­other or bond with viruses from birds or pigs in po­ten­tially deadly new com­bi­na­tions.

This process is what sparked the Swine flu pan­demic of 2009 - which killed nearly 300,000 peo­ple across the world after strik­ing around 60 coun­tries.

The deadly plague out­break in Mada­gas­car

The com­ments come after the plague out­break in Mada­gas­car - the most re­cent epi­demic to re­ceive in­ter­na­tional aid at­ten­tion amid fears it would spread.

More than 200 peo­ple were killed dur­ing the out­break that rav­aged the is­land over the win­ter, which prompted 10 nearby African coun­tries to be placed on high alert.

Zika rocked South Amer­ica

The most re­cent pan­demic - de­fined as the world­wide spread of a new dis­ease - was the mos­quito-borne Zika virus that rocked South Amer­ica in 2016.

The in­fec­tion, which struck 70 coun­tries, can cause mi­cro­cephaly, or in­fants born with ab­nor­mally small heads. It took sci­en­tists by sur­prise.

The global mor­tal­ity rate from the 1918/1919 pan­demic is not known, but an es­ti­mated 10 per cent to 20 per cent of those who were in­fected died, with es­ti­mates of the to­tal num­ber of deaths rang­ing from 50-100 mil­lion peo­ple.

And Ebola, a hem­or­rhagic fever, killed 11,000 in West Africa after it dec­i­mated the re­gion be­tween 2014 and 2015.

The in­ter­na­tional re­sponse to the out­break drew crit­i­cism for mov­ing too slowly, and sci­en­tists warned it spread so quickly be­cause of the ease of global travel.

Briand, who pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged that the WHO made wrong de­ci­sions in re­spond­ing to Ebola, said: “When we travel, the viruses travel with us.

‘Hu­man­ity is more vul­ner­a­ble in the face of epi­demics be­cause we are much more con­nected and we travel around much more quickly than be­fore.”

The eco­nomic im­pact of out­breaks

Richard Hatch­ett, di­rec­tor of the pub­lic-pri­vate Coali­tion for Epi­demic Pre­pared­ness In­no­va­tions (CEPI), also warned of the eco­nomic im­pact of out­breaks.

In 2015, hun­dreds of cases of the MERS res­pi­ra­tory syn­drome cost South Korea $10 bil­lion (£7m), he re­vealed at the sum­mit.

Bil­lion­aire phi­lan­thropist Bill Gates es­ti­mated in Fe­bru­ary 2017 that pre­par­ing to re­spond to a global pan­demic would cost $3.4 bil­lion (£2.4bn) a year.

Credit: https://naij-ask.gencdn.com

Com­piled by Chuk­wuma Muanya, As­sis­tant Editor

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