Friday, 4 August 2017

The world is underprepared for infectious diseases

A team of international experts has highlighted how the world remains ‘grossly underprepared’ for infectious disease outbreaks, which are likely to become more frequent in future decades.

Led by Professor Suerie Moon at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, the researchers looked at progress and gaps in actions and concluded: ‘Ebola and, more recently, Zika and yellow fever, have demonstrated that we do not yet have a reliable or robust global system for preventing, detecting, and responding to disease outbreaks.’ The warning came after the team reviewed reports on the recent Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa and say better preparedness and a faster, more coordinated response could have prevented most of the 11,000 deaths directly attributed to Ebola and also the broader economic, social, and health crises that ensued. In August 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Ebola outbreak in West Africa a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). In the aftermath, several reports were published reviewing what went wrong and how infectious disease outbreaks should be better managed.

However, a lack of clarity in terms of the main priorities and proposed reforms, led the researchers to look closer, synthesising seven major post-Ebola reports to assess recommendations and progress. Their findings recognised that the reports differed in scope and diagnosis of the key problems and recommendations for action converged in three critical areas: strengthening compliance with the International Health Regulations (IHR); improving outbreak-related research and knowledge sharing; reforming the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the broader humanitarian response system.

According to the team, so far progress has been mixed in addressing the issues raised. Key problems include the fact that investments in country capacity building have been inadequate and difficult to track; arrangements for fair and timely sharing of patient samples remain weak, and reform efforts at the WHO have focused on operational issues but have neglected to address deeper institutional shortcomings. The analysis authors say they found ‘remarkable consensus on what went wrong with the Ebola response’ and what is needed to address the deficiencies but so far ‘not nearly enough has been done’.

Source: Health in Europe

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