Doctor’s ‘nightmare’ pandemic prediction
The former head of America's health protection agency says failing to prepare for an "inevitable" next pandemic - one that could be "even deadlier than COVID-19" - would be a grave mistake.
Dr Tom Frieden, who was the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2007 to 2017, writes that a "horrifying influenza pandemic isn't the only nightmare scenario that could be worse than COVID-19".
In an article published by the Wall Street Journal, Dr Frieden suggested there were a number of other potential spreaders of disease that could bring the world to its knees again.
"Think of the hundreds of thousands of cases of tick-borne Lyme disease in the US each year," he wrote.
"In other parts of the world, some ticks spread ebola-like illnesses, and if these infections spread to the US, tick-bites could also lead to a disease with the terrifying lethality of ebola.
"Or a highly drug-resistant bacterium could spread rapidly. Or a laboratory could develop an untreatable, vaccine-defying strain of a virus or bacterium and - intentionally or by accident - release it into the world.
"The world wasn't ready for COVID-19. Will we be ready for the next, inevitable pandemic?"
Dr Frieden said there are a number of things that need to happen before another pandemic hits.
Among them is the need for every country on every continent being able to identify a new outbreak within seven days and reforming the World Health Organisation to allow it to perform its duties effectively. Other measures include responding globally and getting "buy-in from wealthier countries and major philanthropies".
Dr Frieden said there is no time to wait.
"We must act now: 2021 is the now-or-never moment to improve global resilience in facing future pandemics," he said.
"We can't know the character or the timing of the threats ahead, but they are inevitable. There is no time to lose in making preparations.
"Public health decisions are unavoidably political. Failing to act, in the face of COVID-19's proof that the world is dangerously vulnerable, would also be a decision. This year, when the urgency of such work is so clear, we must make significant investments to protect and expand global health - or we and our children will face the dire consequences."
The BBC reports: "Seventy-five per cent of the newly emerging diseases currently affecting humans originate in animals."
It said the next pandemic could come from any one of the following sources - bats, camels, pigs, monkeys and mosquitoes.
The CBC reports that scientists are calling for "quick solutions" to respond to the next pandemic with a vaccine.
Professor Volker Gerdts, CEO of VIDO-Intervac at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, told the broadcaster scientists don't know what the next pandemic will be but they're working on a vaccine against it.
"We really think that there needs to be more research on emerging diseases and establishing quick platforms or quick solutions that allow us to rapidly respond rather than trying to catch up," he said.
"I mean, even now with a one or two-year development of vaccines, which is really, really fast compared to the traditional way, the economic impact still is huge."
Originally published as Doctor's 'nightmare' pandemic prediction