A DEADLY outbreak of a flu-like illness could kill 80 million people across the world in less than two days, experts have warned.
The world is not prepared for the “very real threat” of a pandemic, according to a panel led by the ex-chief of the World Health Organisation.
An outbreak of a flu-like illness could kill 80 million people across the world in less than two days, experts have warned[/caption]
In a stark report, 15 public health leaders criticised a “cycle of panic and neglect” which they say has characterised responses to health emergencies.
Scientists have previously warned about the possibility of an unknown deadly plague dubbed Disease X that could wipe out millions.
The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB) today said the world is now at an “acute risk” of pandemics.
“The threat of a pandemic spreading around the globe is a real one,” the group said in a report released on Wednesday.
“A quick-moving pathogen has the potential to kill tens of millions of people, disrupt economies and destabilise national security.”
The report highlights the danger of a lethal respiratory pathogen, which could kill between 50 and 80 million people.
As the world has become more interconnected, such a pathogen could spread around the globe within 36 to 50 hours, the report says.
The unknown killer virus could wipe out nearly 5% of the global economy and lead to social chaos.
Epidemic-prone viral diseases like Ebola, flu and SARS are increasingly tough to manage in a world dominated by lengthy conflicts and forced migration, the report states.
While some governments and agencies have made efforts to prepare for disease outbreaks since the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, those efforts are “grossly insufficient”, the report said.
In the case of a pandemic, many national health systems – particularly in poor countries – would collapse.
“Poverty and fragility exacerbate outbreaks of infectious disease and help create the conditions for pandemics to take hold,” said Axel van Trotsenburg, acting chief executive of the World Bank and a member of the panel.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said governments should invest in strengthening health systems.
He suggested boosting funds for research into new technologies, improving coordination and rapid communication systems, and monitor progress continually.
WORLD IS ‘NOT PREPARED’
The WHO also warned earlier this year that another pandemic of flu – which is caused by airborne viruses – is inevitable, and said the world should prepare for it.
The latest report cited the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million people.
Studies have shown most of the fatalities were among those under the age of 65.
The virus is thought to have used the body’s own immune system to work against it.
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This caused fatal “cytokine storms” in victims – an overproduction of immune cells that can overwhelm the body.
The stronger the immune system, the more devastating the effects of the Spanish Flu on an infected person.
If Disease X spawns from an influenza strain it could have a similarly devastating effect on younger populations.
Some governments have made efforts to prepare for disease outbreaks since the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa[/caption]
As many as 50 million people died worldwide as a result of the devastating Spanish Flu outbreak in 1918[/caption]
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