Knowledge transfer: A weapon for fighting epidemics
Knowledge exists for battling many known disease outbreaks. The challenge is to get the latest science and knowledge into the hands and minds of decision-makers and front-line responders. Even more difficult is to capture, package and deliver knowledge on new diseases. From 1970-2007 at least 1420 new pathogens – disease-causing microbes – have been discovered, 177 of them identified in the past decade. 70% of these originated from animals, which humans are having increasing contact with due to modern farming, livestock practices, and deforestation. While not all new pathogens have public health impact, some threaten humans.
Changes in the way humans live and work, and the resurgence of mosquito vectors, particularly the Aedes aegypti mosquito (which spreads Zika, dengue fever and chikungunya), have raised the global risk of yellow fever. Two large yellow fever outbreaks in Angola and Democratic Republic of the Congo are now under control but these are just warnings of bigger outbreaks to come if action is not taken.
A coalition of partners working to stop yellow fever outbreaks met in Geneva on 12 September 2016 to develop a new strategy - Eliminating Yellow fever Epidemics (EYE). This strategy aims to protect the populations most at risk, ensure a ready supply of yellow fever vaccine, build resilience in urban centres and prevent international spread.
Emerging and re-emerging epidemic diseases pose an on-going threat to global health security.
The WHO's Twelfth General Programme of Work sets the reduction of "mortality, morbidity and societal disruption resulting from epidemics... through prevention, preparedness, response and recovery activities" as one its five strategic imperatives.
The Department of Pandemic and Epidemic Diseases (PED) develops strategies, initiatives, and mechanisms to address priority emerging and re-emerging epidemic diseases, thereby reducing their impact on affected populations and limiting their international spread.