A team of health experts called the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) made a report about a flu-like pandemic that could kill 50 to 80 million people in 36 hours.
The GPMB, led by the former Norwegian prime minister and director-general of the WHO, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland and the secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Alhadj As Sy, has made the report to let world leaders know and to persuade them to take action.
The report, entitled A World At Risk, mentioned the acute risk of pandemics and how the threat of a pandemic around the world is real. It also referenced the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.
The deadly Spanish flu virus affected more than one-third of the world’s population at that time. Within a matter of months, it managed to kill about 50 million people worldwide, which was three times as many as those who died during World War I.
In early 2019, the World Health Organization WHO) warned about another pandemic of flu. Caused by airborne diseases, the WHO said it is inevitable and something the world should prepare for.
If an outbreak similar to that of the Spanish flu pandemic occurs again today, the effects would be much worse. With traveling much faster and easier today, the lethal respiratory pathogen could spread around the globe and kill millions and millions of people within a 36 to 50 hour period.
The report cited emerging and re-emerging diseases that could set off the outbreak. Under the emerging diseases category, it included Ebola, Nipah, Zika viruses. It also added the five types of flu.
As for re-emerging diseases, these referred to antibiotic resistance, acute flaccid myelitis, Dengue, human monkeypox, measles, plague, West Nile virus, and Yellow fever.
It has been extremely difficult to contain and to manage epidemic-prone viral diseases like flu, Ebola, and SARS because of factors like forced migration, lengthy conflicts, and fragile states in the world.
“The threat of a pandemic spreading around the globe is a real one, said the GPMB report.
“A quick-moving pathogen has the potential to kill tens of millions of people, disrupt economies and destabilize national security,” the report adds.
The report has also warned that the pandemic could wipe out 5% of the world’s economy. It can cause the collapse of many national health systems most especially those in poor countries.
“A global pandemic on that scale would be catastrophic, creating widespread havoc, instability, and insecurity. The world is not prepared,” the report cautioned.
Axel van Trotsenburg, acting chief executive of the World Bank and a member of the panel said: “Poverty and fragility exacerbate outbreaks of infectious disease and help create the conditions for pandemics to take hold.”
According to the report, some international agencies and governments have prepared for major disease outbreaks. However, it seems that these efforts are still grossly insufficient. The GPMB said governments should prepare for and mitigate the risk.
The director-general of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said there should be more investment in strengthening health systems as well as boosting funds for research into new technologies. There should also be an improvement in the coordination and communication systems and the continuous monitoring of progress.
Based on the report, the GPMB recommended that governments must set aside a budget that would be used to make better preparations in the event of an outbreak.
The GPMB also asked the members of the G7, G20, and G77 should be setting an example so that the rest of the world would follow. They also urged that more private investments be made into pandemic preparations. They have also mentioned the United Nations and how it should be able to do more in terms of coordinating responses to a pandemic across borders.