Pandemic Threat

June 2, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 20
Is the world prepared for the next outbreak?
By Bara Vaida


A chicken is vaccinated against avian flu (Getty Images/TASS/Valery Matytsin)
A chicken is vaccinated against avian flu in Chaltyr, a village in Russia's Rostov region, on Feb. 9. The U.S. Agency for International Development is monitoring disease outbreaks in 20 countries for their potential to become the next pandemic. Most infectious diseases that afflicted humans this century originated in animals. (Getty Images/TASS/Valery Matytsin)

Public health officials say the world is overdue for a pandemic that could kill 30 million people within a year. The possible causes include the expanding and mobile global population, mutating viruses that can outfox vaccine makers, the threat of bioterrorism and accelerating climate change that breeds new diseases. Meanwhile, in the wake of recent outbreaks of the Zika virus in Brazil, Ebola in Africa and a new strain of bird flu in China, many experts say the World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies charged with protecting against dangerous pathogens are under-resourced and underfunded. But some experts are more optimistic, saying the global health community has taken important steps to prevent and respond to pandemics. For example, the United States has invested in crisis preparation, and WHO set up a global surveillance network and pandemic emergency fund, these experts note. But gaps in funding and leadership remain, and many warn that vaccines exist for just a fraction of the 300 known infectious viruses.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Dec. 02, 2022  Long COVID
Oct. 29, 2021  COVID-19 Vaccines
Jan. 08, 2021  Health and Society
Nov. 20, 2020  The Public Health System
Jul. 17, 2020  The Pandemic Economy
Jun. 26, 2020  Zoonotic Diseases
May 08, 2020  CTE and Athletes
Jan. 24, 2020  Conquering Rare Diseases
Sep. 13, 2019  Measles Resurgence
Nov. 30, 2018  Obesity Crisis
Jun. 15, 2018  Superbug Threat
Jun. 02, 2017  Pandemic Threat
Jul. 22, 2016  Mosquito-Borne Disease
Feb. 13, 2015  Emerging Infectious Diseases
Nov. 08, 2013  Lyme Disease
Jan. 06, 2012  Preventing Disease
Apr. 02, 2010  Breast Cancer
Sep. 12, 2008  Heart Health
Aug. 24, 2007  Fighting Superbugs
Jan. 13, 2006  Avian Flu Threat
Jun. 20, 2003  Fighting SARS
Apr. 05, 2002  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Mar. 09, 2001  Diabetes Epidemic
Mar. 02, 2001  Mad Cow Disease
Dec. 24, 1999  Asthma Epidemic
Aug. 05, 1983  Multiple Sclerosis
May 27, 1983  Chronic Pain: The Hidden Epidemic
Sep. 24, 1976  Influenza Control
Sep. 16, 1970  Virus Research
Mar. 14, 1956  Progress Against Polio
May 25, 1955  Degenerative Diseases
May 25, 1949  Chronic Disease
Mar. 01, 1924  The Foot and Mouth Disease
Humanitarian Assistance
Infectious Diseases
Maternal and Child Health Care
Medical Research and Advocacy
Terrorism and Counterterrorism