Wednesday 23 October 2019

Global flu outbreak could kill 80 million, say experts

Epidemic-prone viral diseases like Ebola, flu and SARS are increasingly tough to manage. Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo
Epidemic-prone viral diseases like Ebola, flu and SARS are increasingly tough to manage. Photo: REUTERS/Baz Ratner/File Photo

Kate Kelland in London

The world is facing a mounting threat of disease pandemics that could kill millions and wreak havoc on the global economy, an international expert panel has warned.

The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB), co-convened by the World Bank and the World Health Organisation (WHO), warned that epidemic-prone viral diseases like Ebola, flu and SARS are increasingly tough to manage in a world dominated by lengthy conflicts, fragile states and forced migration.

"The threat of a pandemic spreading around the globe is a real one," the group said in a report yesterday.

"A quick-moving pathogen has the potential to kill tens of millions of people, disrupt economies and destabilise national security."

While some governments and international agencies have made efforts to be vigilant and prepare for major disease outbreaks since the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, those efforts are "grossly insufficient", the report added.

Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former WHO head who co-chaired the board, added that current approaches to disease and health emergencies are "characterised by a cycle of panic and neglect".

The report cited the 1918 "Spanish flu" pandemic, which killed around 50 million people. With vast numbers of people crossing the world every day, an airborne outbreak now could spread globally in less than 36 hours and kill an estimated 50 million to 80 million people, it said.

"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.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Editors Choice

Also in World News