The World Health Organization has released its Global
Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030, which provides a framework “for WHO,
countries and partners to approach influenza holistically through robust
national programs – from surveillance to disease prevention and control – with
the goal of strengthening seasonal prevention and control and preparedness for
future pandemics.” According to the WHO, another influenza pandemic is likely,
if not imminent, given our global and interconnected world. Many WHO experts
believe a severe influenza pandemic could be the most devastating
health event to ever occur, with worldwide consequences.
A pandemic of any kind would kill thousands or millions
around the world, and would have a devastating effect on global economies and
infrastructure. A moderately severe pandemic, for example, could have a
potential global economic impact of US$ 500
Billion, or .6% of global income. By contrast, the cost of adequately
preparing for a global pandemic is estimated at US$4.5 Billion, or less
than US$1 per person per year. Unfortunately, according to the WHO, most
countries have grossly underprepared for—and underinvested in—infrastructure
designed to mitigate a pandemic crisis. The WHO strategy is, in effect, a call
to action for all countries to prioritize the implementation of influenza
programs to prevent a global pandemic.
strategy’s goals are to: 1. Reduce the burden of seasonal influenza; 2.
Minimize the risk of zoonotic influenza; and 3. Mitigate the impact of pandemic
influenza. The strategy is designed to address outbreak-related challenges,
including the development of better global tools such as vaccines, antivirals,
and treatments; and the development of stronger national plans designed to more
fully address national healthcare security planning and improve health coverage
capacities. More specifically, the WHO aims at new research and innovation in
better preventative tools and medicine to treat influenza, and at programs that
individual countries can adopt to more adequately address the disease before
and as it appears. According to the WHO, knowledge gaps in understanding the
virus and its hosts’ response exist, which need to be addressed to lower
disease mortality and morbidity rates. Per
the report, “Without more effective antiviral drugs and vaccines with
stronger, broader and longer lasting immunity, countries will struggle to
acquire public confidence and fully implement their influenza prevention,
control and preparedness efforts.”
The strategy also aims at strengthening global influenza
monitoring, which will be designed to generate data and information to be used
by policy makers. Such data would be used to help bridge the gap between the
policy makers and their constituent communities to understand risk-mitigation
needs, and to increase community buy-in and confidence to pandemic preparedness
initiatives. Further, the strategy aims to improve and increase seasonal
influenza prevention efforts. As countries prepare for the seasonal flu, WHO
posits, they will invariably prepare for potential pandemic-level influenza
outbreaks as well. The idea, then, is to protect at-risk groups from flu
infections, and to contribute to universal health coverage initiatives to
prevent and control a disease outbreak of any proportion.
Finally, the strategy will work to strengthen pandemic
preparedness and response initiatives in regional, national, and global sectors
around the world. The WHO encourages collaborative, cross-border efforts to
ensure a more thorough global response to an influenza pandemic, and that
countries integrate the strategy’s priorities into their own influenza preparedness
policies to attain the highest possible level of prevention.
To read the full WHO
Global Influenza Strategy 2019-2030, click here.
Jon Hamilton earned his Master’s Degree in Biohazardous Threat Agents and Emerging Infectious Diseases from Georgetown University. He was briefly involved in Healthcare Association of Hawaii’s Ebola Virus Disease Prevention working group during the 2014 EVD outbreak. He has also worked with and done research for infectious disease physicians in Honolulu and at the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. When Jon is not researching or writing, he can be found surfing in sunny San Diego, California, where he currently resides. Jon can be reached on LinkedIn or at email@example.com.