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Online Discussion: Tracking new emerging diseases and the next pandemic

W.H.O warns new pandemic inevitable

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    Posted: October 08 2017 at 5:37pm

World Health Organisation warns new pandemic inevitable

Michael Madigan, The Courier-Mail
Subscriber only

THE next epidemic will deal a devastating blow to the global economy costing the world half a trillion dollars while containment across international borders will be increasingly difficult, according to a World Health Organisation executive speaking in Brisbane today.

Dr Peter Salama, executive director of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, was addressing a gathering at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, where Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced an unprecedented $300 million package designed to prevent disease outbreak across the Pacific.

The $300 million is the largest funding grant ever allocated within Australia’s Foreign Aid Budget for health and medical research.

Dr Salama said a new WHO Global Health Security Program established a year ago was now receiving around 3000 signals of a threat to public health safety each month.

Around 300 of those alerts were requiring an in-depth, field response from the WHO.

“We truly live in a world where the threat to public health are serious, constant and increasing,’’ Dr Salama said.

The threat of a pandemic was increasing because of a variety of factors including climate change, urbanisation and population displacement.

“The question is not if, but when, the next pandemic will occur.’’

Official estimates of the cost of a new global outbreak were now at $500 billion, Dr Salama said.

Ms Bishop said the Australian Government wanted to work with other governments in the region to build the capacity of health networks so countries could better cope with disease outbreak.

The $300 million would help boost research and the development of new diagnostics and build partnerships.

It would also fund a new Health Security Corps with participants to be placed in governments, research institutions and health organisation throughout the Pacific region.

Trade, travel and investment all slowed in the event of a disease outbreak, Ms Bishop said.

The ebola outbreak in 2014 revealed the capacity of health systems to cope was vitally important, she said.

Director of external Relations at the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Dr Christopher Benn, who attended the gathering, said the Global Fund strongly welcomed Ms Bishop’s announcement.

“It is a powerful contribution to our collective global effort of building stronger health systems and address emerging health threats such as increasing resistance to common drugs used to treat tuberculosis and malaria,’’ Dr Benn said,.

“While we can’t predict exactly what the next epidemic will be, we can predict there will be one.’’

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