The next pandemic: ‘A question of when, not if,’ says expert
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a difficult phase for all the people around the world. We witnessed the world economy collapsing, people are suffering from depression and anxiety, the industrial and administration changes in companies, organizations, schools, and in turn the way of living life all in the six months lockdown. So we can definitely say that The COVID-19 pandemic turned the entire world upside down within three months. Scientists and researchers have been long warning us about the threat of zoonotic and infectious diseases on humanity. And these concerns have only risen after the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the increasing climatic change, widespread Antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic and infectious diseases on a loose, it is only a matter of time before we face the next pandemic. So the question that remains for us to answer is not “if the next pandemic will occur”, it is “when will the next pandemic occur?”
We saw how a single strain of virus from a bat can put the entire world into turmoil, but there are 1.67 million more unknown viral species out there which we have yet to face and fight. Preparedness is the key to averting such humanitarian, health, and economic crises in the future by viruses. Yet even a single nation sufficiently prepared for epidemics or pandemics could not be included in the 2019 Global Health Security Ranking, a detailed score to measure countries’ ability to cope with health emergencies. Out of the 195 nations, India put an unremarkable 57th. It’s ranking, distributed across the six prevention, identification, and reporting categories, rapid response, health system, international standards enforcement, and risk climate, was uniformly average, with preventive efforts rated the lowest. Disaggregated further, India did far worse through metrics such as zoonotic disease prevention; emergency preparedness and response planning; health system capability, and healthcare access.
Pandemic preparedness, usually requiring oversight, risk reduction, and capacity building involves substantial effort and dedication. In order to detect and respond to outbreaks in a timely manner, strengthened district-state-national surveillance capability, inclusive of the private sector and strategically enhanced in potential hotspots, with capable support from adequate human resources and diagnostic infrastructure, will be crucial. Along with this, implementing and adopting a ‘One Health’ strategy will further improve risk prevention and preventive measures for the next pandemic, which recognizes sustainable interrelationships between humans, animals, and their common environment as central to improving health outcomes. In order to optimize synergies between the various sectors dealing with a human, animal, and environmental health and provide a basis for collective action, a national OneHealth policy would be required. Some immediate steps may include ensuring standards of health and hygiene in food-animal farming, preventing the misuse of antibiotics therein, and strategic integration between surveillance of human and animal diseases.