“We know that it is only a matter of time before the next pandemic hits us. We also know that there is a good chance that it will be severe,” said a 131-page report by the International Working Group on Financing Preparedness (IWG), established by the World Bank.
“It may mean death on a slow fuse, spreading insidiously through populations, unrecognized for years, like HIV in the 1980s. Or it may strike people down with stark violence and lightning speed, plunging national economies abruptly into chaos, like Ebola in West Africa in 2014-15. Whatever its mode of attack, the next largescale, lethal pandemic is at most only decades away,” the report warned.
“A severe pandemic could result in millions of deaths and cost trillions of dollars, and even smaller outbreaks can cost thousands of lives and cause immense economic damage,” researchers said.
Meanwhile, many countries “chronically underinvest” in key public health functions like disease surveillance, diagnostic laboratories and emergency operations centers, which enable the early identification and containment of outbreaks, the report, released on Thursday, noted.
“Pandemics can strike anywhere, and everyone is at risk – especially the poor and the vulnerable,” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said in a statement.
“We must finally break the cycle of panic and neglect in our response to grave threats from infectious diseases. We have to ensure we are prepared, so the next outbreak does not become the next pandemic,” he added.
Although experts differ in their precise estimates of the cost of pandemics, all the figures are “alarmingly high,” stressed the report, which was titled From Panic and Neglect to Investing in Health Security: Financing Pandemic Preparedness at a National Level.