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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Here’s how we need to arm against future pandemics

Dr. Ahmad highlights factors leading to the spread of various diseases. Furthermore, he urges the need for efficient and long-term planning to protect the world from future pandemics.

The covid-19 pandemic was very different from the previous outbreak of diseases like Ebola, SARS H1N1, and MERS in 2015,2003,2009, and 2013 respectively. It promoted poverty by decreasing the global economy by more than 5%.

Populism gave birth to Vaccine-Nationalism in all major democracies. Poor performance of democracies deteriorated the trust of governments. Supply chains were shifted away from China. International institutions like WHO was attacked by demagogues for their poor performance and inefficiency.

Read more: Covid ‘vaccine nationalism’ highlights failure of Multi-lateral system

However, the rapid development of vaccines has proven that the end of the pandemic is in sight in near future. But are we prepared for a new pandemic?

Pandemic is not all about the outbreak of a disease and its containment. The development of vaccines can be termed as a short-term cure and strategy to stop a pandemic. But the real challenge is to stop it from happening again in the near future.

Unfortunately, the global leaders and institutions didn’t learn any lessons from the last Ebola epidemic of 2015 which led to a new pandemic. Ebola was efficiently tackled by the Obama administration. The national health security intelligence unit was created by Obama under his direct leadership. Health security was linked to national security. But Trump dismantled it which wreaked havoc in Covid-19.

Read more: The last of Obama legacy being dismantled?

Why diseases spread

The spread of a disease is a very diverse phenomenon that is interlinked with multiple problems of our era. Have you ever thought about what led to a man eating a bat? Apart from cultural tendencies, the population boom and shortage of food are the culprits.

Failure to control the population leads to the massive demand for food which cannot be fulfilled by mainstream sources. Protein need is met by slaughtering dead and diseased animals at local farms. Unconventional food sources are then utilized for it.

Similarly, a rise in population leads to the clearing of farms. Man is exposed to animals and their vectors. Habitats of animals are destroyed by deforestation and urbanization, forcing animals to migrate and come in close contact with new species.

Read more: Urbanization and declining agriculture: How to balance them off?

In the same fashion, climate change perturbs the internal clocks of animals. The reproduction of animals is affected by climate change. Animals are forced to migrate to the North for a cooler atmosphere where they are exposed to new predators. Moreover, these animals lack immunity against newly emerged diseases by melting glaciers.

Such dead animals then serve as reservoirs of diseases for local populations. Food chains are dismantled exposing animals to new predators making the transfer of viruses and bacteria possible.

Furthermore, the inefficiency of animal organizations and livestock authorities to warn health establishments about any such interaction increases the chances of a new epidemic and pandemic. Weak local market checks and failure to implement SOPs of animal slaughtering produce a rapid transfer of viruses.

Read more: Certain animals transmit dangerous diseases, so why can’t humans stop eating them?

Then diseased animals face no obstruction in global transportation at airports and ports. Weak airport disease surveillance and monitoring let such animals pass from one continent to other. Globalization with poor airport security measures, and weak international institutions of health act as the final steps for the disease to go global.

How to stop any pandemic

A new pandemic can be stopped by taking some timely steps. First of all, all international institutions, governments, and health bodies must devise a new strategy to stop a new pandemic from happening. Blueprints of the USA’s 2015 Ebola strategy can be used for this purpose.

A new hybrid model should be made involving military and health establishments at the global and national levels. The strategy must be practiced in every country. There should also be new rules made for emergency supplies of medicines and all necessary equipment for a health emergency.

Read more: How can pandemic challenges be coped with ‘Blue Ocean Strategy’?

WHO must be reformed at every level to improve data access of diseases. It must coordinate with animal organizations to timely spot the emergence of a new disease. In addition, population control should be made a part of pandemic containment and should be focused on by hybrid authorities.

Deforestation and climate change should be tackled in parallel to this pandemic to decrease the chances of the emergence of new diseases. Stringent airport security checks should be devised for both men and animals. All forms of animal transportation, animal markets, animal authorities, and animal farms should be reformed to break the cycle of diseases and their vectors.

Governments must make health security a national preference. The use of viruses as bioweapons should never be ignored. Lastly, more investment should be made in health governance at all levels for the perfect preparation for a pandemic. If these steps are not taken, we will always be a few months away from the emergence of a new pandemic.

Read more: US shuts down its biological warfare lab

The writer is a doctor and a blogger. He studied public policy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and attended the India Institute of Science in Bangalore. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.