With the rapid evolution of technology, know-how, and an increasing appreciation of the interconnectedness of everyone on the planet, on 1 and 2 December 2015, the World Health Organization convened some of the world’s most eminent scientists, experts and practitioners to identify a path forward to better, more accurately and systematically predict epidemics and thereby meaningfully strengthen global and national readiness to address these emerging infectious disease threats.
More than 130 experts are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss how to better anticipate epidemics. Drawing from lessons learned from Ebola outbreak, pandemic (H1N1) 2009 and other infectious diseases, the experts are looking at signals and warnings that indicate when a local disease outbreak can amplify into an epidemic or pandemic. The conference is convened by the Pandemic and Epidemic Disease team in WHO to help countries and international stakeholders better prepare for and respond to epidemics.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the world has battled a series of major crises as a result of infectious disease epidemics: SARS (2003), re-emergence of H5N1 (2003), Cholera in Haiti (2010), Pandemic H1N1 (2009), MERS-CoV (2012) and Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa (2014). There is a growing demand for the global community to build a common understanding of the drivers that could transform local disease outbreaks into massive, damaging international health emergencies. Being able to systematically assess and anticipate the wider array of factors that contribute to the amplification of epidemics will help better prepare outbreak responses, reinforce the International Health Regulations (2005) and strengthen global health security.