WHAT IT IS
- "A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease." [World Health Organization]
- A pandemic is a global epidemic. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]
- An epidemic is a rapidly spread disease located around an epicenter or one general location. [Merriam-Webster]
- The modern-day world has experienced four major pandemics: H1N1 "Spanish flu" (1918), H2N2 "Asain flu"(1957), H3N2 (1968), H1N1 "Swine flu" (2009) [U.S. National Library of Medicine]
- Mar. 11, 2020: The COVID-19 coronavirus is now the fifth major pandemic. [World Health Organization]
WHY IT MATTERS
CIVICS: Pandemics are considered a national security threat for almost any country. [United Nations, UN Chronicle] Strong partnerships amongst world leaders are critical for handling pandemics. Strong partnerships are created through strong foreign policy. [Foreign Policy]
ECONOMIC: Pandemics and epidemics can significantly impact global economies. [U.S. National Library of Medicine] The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to produce higher rates of unemployment than the Great Depression, with authorities predicting 30% unemployment in the U.S. [U.S. News and World Report]
The estimated global mortality with pandemics is significantly lower than pandemics 100 years ago. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]
Diagnosing, studying and caring for viruses has become more accurate and more widely available. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]
Vaccines and medicine
Herd immunity, or community immunity, also protects against epidemics and pandemics. Herd immunity happens when a "critical mass" is immunized. [PBS, WGBH], [U.S Department of Health and Human Services]
Since 1916, the United States has worked closely with the World Health Organization to increase the country's readiness to respond to an epidemic or pandemic.
Measures include "stockpiling" medicines and vaccines, and educating the public on health and safety. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]
After the Ebola epidemic, many countries took additional measures to prepare for outbreaks. [The Washington Post]
BUT STILL THREATS
The increase in the world population has resulted in overcrowded urban areas. Overcrowding can increase person-to-person viral outbreaks. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]
More people require more food. The increase in meat and poultry production increases the frequency of more viruses and new viruses to be transmitted to humans.
Global transportation was not widely available 100 years ago.
This global mobility of humans allows viruses to travel widely and more freely, helping stimulate the pandemic. [The Atlantic]
According to the World Health Organization, at least 101 countries have no or no publically available national plan for handling a pandemic.
Only 25 countries have published plans. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]
The World Health Organization has expressed concern over a combination of information overload and misinformation online. This combination can be dangerous to public health. [The United Nations News], [NPR]
For example, misinformation online about vaccines has caused near eradicated, preventable diseases (like measles) to reemerge. [U.S. National Library of Medicine]
WHERE WE ARE NOW
- Dec. 2019: Doctors in Wuhan, China started seeing a new viral pneumonia-like virus, now called COVID-19. [Johns Hopkins Medicine]
- June 2020: There are at least 1 million confirmed cases and at least 100,000+ deaths in the US. [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]
- June 2020: COVID-19 is responsible for more than 350,000+ deaths worldwide. [Statista]
THINGS TO THINK ABOUT
- Dive deep into seasonal flu vs. pandemic flu from the CDC.
- Here is the National Pandemic Strategy for the United States, published by the CDC.
- Read the Coronavirus Wuhan diary from the BBC.
- The quarantined city of Wuhan is experiencing a shortage of diagnosis kits and hospital beds. [NPR]
- Many believe this public health crisis is a political test for President Xi Jinping. Read more from Aljazeera.
- Track cases worldwide with Johns Hopkins University.