Guide to tame next global flu pandemic now available

Thursday March 21 2019

A sign advertising flu shots is displayed at a

A sign advertising flu shots is displayed at a Walgreens phramacy in San Francisco, California. The WHO recommends an annual influenza vaccination as the most effective way to prevent it. AFP PHOTO | GETTY IMAGES  

By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI
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The World Health Organisation has released a Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030 to protect people in all countries from the flu.

The goal of the strategy is to prevent seasonal influenza, control its spread from animals to humans, and prepare for the next influenza pandemic since “The threat of pandemic influenza is ever-present,” as WHO director-general Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus described it.

“The risk of a new influenza virus transmitting from animals to humans and potentially causing a pandemic is real. The question is not if, but when. We must be vigilant and prepared because the cost of a major outbreak will far outweigh the price of prevention,” Dr Tedros said.

Influenza is a viral respiratory disease of global importance. Indeed, many experts believe that an influenza pandemic is the greatest threat to global public health and remains one of the world’s greatest public health challenges.

Every year across the globe, there are an estimated 1 billion cases, of which 3 to 5 million are severe, resulting in 290,000 to 650,000 influenza-related respiratory deaths.

Country-specific plans

The WHO recommends an annual influenza vaccination as the most effective way to prevent it. Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications and for healthcare workers.

The new strategy outlines a path to protect populations every year and helps prepare for a pandemic through strengthening routine programmes.

The first goals is building stronger country capacities for disease surveillance, response, prevention and control.

The other is preparedness. To achieve this, every country must have a tailored influenza programme that contributes to national and global preparedness and health security; develop better tools to prevent, detect, control and treat influenza, such as more effective vaccines, antivirals and treatments.

“With the partnerships and country-specific work we have been doing over the years, the world is better prepared than ever before for the next big outbreak, but we are still not prepared enough,” Dr Tedros added.

The strategy meets one of WHO’s mandates to improve core capacities for public health, and increase global preparedness.

It was developed with input from member states, academia, civil society, industry and various experts.