10 Ways The World Can Be Prepared To Fight A Possible Future Pandemic

By Ellen Kershner on June 21 2020 in Science

Image credit: theskaman306/Shutterstock.com
Image credit: theskaman306/Shutterstock.com
  • One reason why viruses can spread so quickly is the lack of portable, inexpensive testing kits.
  • Risk registers are tools that document risk factors and corresponding ways to manage them.
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a useful tool for managing pandemics, as it makes real-time information available to authorities and the public.
  • Current technology can digitally trace an infected person

Given the global catastrophe caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has realized that there is much to do to prepare the world for a future pandemic. The current pandemic has revealed the weaknesses in international and national systems for pandemic management. The health systems became overwhelmed too quickly, the flow of misinformation could not be stopped and decision makers could not take decisions on time. All that led to the rapid spread of the disease across the world. However, the disaster has also taught the world how to improve the response system and handle pandemics in a better manner in the future. As per global leaders and thinkers, here are some of the much-needed actions to be taken to be prepared for future pandemics.

Revamp WHO

Many policy leaders agree that the World Health Organization (WHO) needs a new, separate body dedicated to taking charge of pandemics. This new entity could have more authority and be better equipped to manage and coordinate work in public and private sectors.

Better Testing Kits

One reason why viruses can spread so quickly is the lack of portable, inexpensive testing kits. With improved, mobile devices and other testing kits, a future pandemic would be less likely to spread exponentially.

Monitoring Social Distancing

Image credit: Picturesque Japan/Shutterstock.com

New technologies may be able to help monitor social distancing by using cellular networks to alert authorities when large gatherings are taking place. This could also be used to notify people that they need to evacuate overcrowded areas.

Risk Registers

Risk registers are tools that document risk factors and corresponding ways to manage them. They can be confusing, with exhaustive information and complicated graphs. Some countries do not publish their risk registers because of the political implications. An article posted on The Conversation advocated for producing risk registers “outside the political process,” through partnerships between policymakers, experts, healthcare workers, and indigenous peoples.

Artificial Intelligence

A model of how drones can be used to spread disinfectants. Image credit: Scharfsinn/Shutterstock.com

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a useful tool for managing pandemics, as it makes real-time information available to authorities and the public. This allows for speedier, more effect implementation of control measures. Artificial Intelligence is also used to predict how future pandemics can spread, and is now being used for patient diagnoses and treatments. This reduces the risks for infection of healthcare workers. Drones are also used to spread disinfectants and check on quarantine localities.

Warning Systems

Researchers can look at seasonal data from medical centers, analyzing flu cases, increases in intensive care unit cases, and fatalities. When fluctuations are noted, advisories can be sent off to labs and hospitals to alert for possible new diseases or viruses. This can be tied into precautionary travel advisories that could be sent out before it is too late.

Basic Research

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The Department of Health and Human Services has ramped up research to help produce effective vaccines. To supplement this for now and the future, experts feel that more basic research needs to be done on the biology and ecology of influenzaviruses. This includes learning more about the epidemiologic roles that animals play in the development and spread of viruses.

Contact Tracing

Health departments need better tools and techniques, including ways to identify infection chains. Current technology can digitally trace an infected person to see where he or she has been, as well as people they have been in contact with. It can also help to isolate infected individuals and even aid in locking down localities.

Working Together

Much of the world has experienced pandemics and similar crises, and sharing knowledge of how they were dealt with can be beneficial. For example, certain countries that faced the SARS virus in the past have better coped later crises. A global, public health approach that coordinates a pandemic response has also been discussed. The next step would be to design a thorough, operational blueprint with steps to navigate through one to two years of a pandemic.

Vaccine Production  

The current, egg-based vaccine manufacturing process could be replaced by cell-culture technology. The egg-based process is slow, and requires millions and millions of chicken eggs. Once the new tech is adopted, it is essential that the industrial capacity to produce enough vaccine for the entire world in a pandemic’s early stages would already be in place.

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