Do we keep waiting for the next pandemic or try to prevent it?

Source(s): STAT News

By Seth Berkley

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Over the last few decades, the number of disease outbreaks has more than tripled, culminating in three major epidemics in recent years — Ebola, yellow fever, and Zika. Despite this, governments often respond to outbreaks only once they occur, rather than investing in ways to stop them in the first place. If this continues, there will be a growing risk that we will not only undermine the great progress that has been made in fighting infectious disease, but we could even see a resurgence of highly preventable diseases that were previously in decline.

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While stockpiles are essential, they remain only part of the solution. As cities continue to grow, our best defense will be anticipating outbreaks before they occur. For some diseases, that means making childhood immunization and pre-emptive vaccination campaigns a priority. In other cases, it may mean greater investment in sanitation infrastructure, which can help prevent not just cholera but other water-borne diseases, like the diarrhea-causing rotavirus. And many poor countries are in desperate need of basic diagnostics and surveillance capabilities, enabling them to detect an outbreak as early as possible gives them an opportunity to quickly respond.

All too often with infectious diseases, it is only when people start to die that necessary action is taken. To avoid this, the answer is simple: All countries must step up their long-term efforts to prevent and, wherever possible, eliminate infectious disease. If we keep waiting until outbreaks occur, we may soon find that our ability to respond, contain, and end them is gravely inadequate.

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