Dr Ardis Hoven, Chair of the WMA, speaking at a meeting in Geneva on the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu pandemic, questioned whether the world was prepared for another pandemic like Spanish flu.
Dr Hoven said, “One hundred years ago the deadly Spanish flu pandemic killed between 50 and 100 million people in a matter of months. It affected 500 million people around the world. Today, how certain are we that we can protect ourselves from another global virus outbreak? In today’s globally connected world, have we seriously prepared for the greater risks we would face from a new deadly virus sweeping the world?”
Dr Hoven further added that that the deaths from the 2016 Ebola crisis in West Africa were directly caused by Ebola, but also indirectly caused by the collapsed healthcare system through the pandemic.
A weak healthcare system allowed the virus to spread in the first place. What was needed to combat the latest epidemic, as well as the threat from future epidemics, was an urgent strengthening of health care systems and increased investment around the world.
She said evidence from the 2016 outbreak had concluded that the adverse impact of Ebola stretched far beyond Ebola cases and deaths.
What the world needed now was increased investment in the health workforce, with well trained and supported health professionals. This should be accompanied by well supplied healthcare settings, decent working conditions and a far better global and national surveillance system.