World must prepare for inevitable next flu pandemic, WHO says

  • World must prepare for inevitable next flu pandemic, WHO says

World must prepare for inevitable next flu pandemic, WHO says

A logo is pictured on the World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, November 22, 2017.

The World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday outlined a global plan for fighting influenza and trying to prevent or slow any worldwide outbreak of the viral disease, warning that the danger of a pandemic was "ever-present".

The WHO Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030 urges every country to have a plan to fight influenza and contribute to global preparedness.

"The cost of a major influenza outbreak will far outweigh the price of prevention", he said.

To reach such an ambitious target, Ghebreyesus highlights global cooperation as paramount to the success of the strategy, in order to avoid a repeat of the H1N1 (Swine flu) pandemic of 2009 and 2010.

The world has suffered through a number of devastating influenzas pandemics, including the Spanish Flu, which in 1918 killed tens of millions of people globally. Studies of that pandemic found that at least one in five people worldwide were infected in the first year, and the death rate was 0.02 percent.

Among other things, Dr. Tedros warned of the risk that a new influenza virus could transmit from animals to humans to trigger such a pandemic. More effective vaccines and antivirals, particularly for low and middle income countries, are top of the list, the organisation added.

Tedros said progress in recent years had made the world better prepared than ever for the next big influenza outbreak.

Influenza epidemics, largely seasonal, affect around one billion people and kill hundreds of thousands annually, according to WHO, which describes it as one of the world's greatest public health challenges.

Vaccines can help prevent some cases, and the WHO recommends annual vaccination - especially for people working in health care and for vulnerable people such as the old, the very young and people with underlying illness.