New diseases have been emerging at the unprecedented rate of one a year for the last two decades, and this trend is certain to continue. The sudden and deadly arrival of SARS on the global health stage early in 2003 was in some ways perhaps the most dramatic of all. Its rapid containment is one of the biggest success stories in public health in recent years.
But how much of that success was a result of good fortune as well as good science? How narrow was the escape from an international health disaster? What tipped the scales? The international response to SARS will shape future strategies against infectious epidemics.
The World Health Organization warned in its 2007 report that infectious diseases are emerging at a rate that has not been seen before. Since the 1970s, about 40 infectious diseases have been discovered, including SARS, MERS, Ebola, chikungunya, avian flu, swine flu, Zika and most recently a new coronavirus. Corona Virus Disease is the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered Pandemic. This new virus and disease were unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 is now a pandemic affecting many countries globally.
Roughly 7.3 billion people inhabit the Earth, and that figure is expected to balloon to nearly 10 billion by 2050, according to United Nations estimates. All those people need places to live and food to eat. And that means recent global rises in urbanization, population migration, and the conversion of natural habitats to agricultural land are all likely to continue and probably accelerate.
The day-by-day struggle to control the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) represents a major victory for public health collaboration. Key lessons emerge that will be invaluable in shaping the future of infectious disease control and being ready for the day when the next new disease arrives without warning.
First and most important is the need to report, promptly and openly, cases of any disease with the potential for international spread in a closely interconnected and highly mobile world.
Second, timely global alerts can prevent imported cases from igniting big outbreaks in new areas.
Third, travel recommendations, including screening measures at airports, help to contain the international spread of an emerging infection.
Fourth, the world’s best scientists, clinicians and public health experts, aided by electronic communications, can collaborate to generate rapidly the scientific basis for control measures.
Fifth, weaknesses in health systems play a key role in permitting emerging infections to spread.
Sixth, an outbreak can be contained even without a curative drug or a vaccine if existing interventions are tailored to the circumstances and backed by political commitment. Finally, risk communication about new and emerging infections is a great challenge and it is vital to ensure that the most accurate information is successfully and unambiguously communicated to the public. WHO (world health organization) is applying these lessons across the Organization as it scales up its response to the HIV/AIDS emergency.
Emerging infectious diseases are infections that have recently appeared within a population or those whose incidence or geographic range is rapidly increasing or threatens to increase in the near future. Emerging infections can be caused by:
- Previously undetected or unknown infectious agents
- Known agents that have spread to new geographic locations or new populations
- Previously known agents whose role in specific diseases has previously gone unrecognized.
- Re-emergence of agents whose incidence of disease had significantly declined in the past, but whose incidence of disease has reappeared. This class of diseases is known as re-emerging infectious diseases.
Additionally, there is the potential for diseases to emerge as a result of deliberate introduction into human, animal, or plant populations for terrorist purposes, as discussed in the section on Bioterrorism Agents. These diseases include anthrax, smallpox, and tularemia.
Trauma is a damage that occurs as a result of a distressing event. There are three main types of trauma which are acute, chronic, or complex.
Most countries around the world have seen cases of COVID-19 and many are experiencing outbreaks. Authorities in China and some other countries have succeeded in slowing their outbreaks. However, the situation is unpredictable.
Protecting yourself and others from the spread COVID-19
According to the World Health Organization you can reduce your chances of being infected or spreading COVID-19 by taking some simple precautions:
- Regularly and thoroughly clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or wash them with soap and water. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand rub kills viruses that may be on your hands.
- Maintain at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and others. Why? When someone coughs, sneezes, or speaks they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person has the disease.
- Avoid going to crowded places. Why? Where people come together in crowds, you are more likely to come into close contact with someone that has COIVD-19 and it is more difficult to maintain physical distance of 1 metre (3 feet).
- Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and infect you.
- Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately and wash your hands. Why? Droplets spread virus. By following good respiratory hygiene, you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
- Stay home and self-isolate even with minor symptoms such as cough, headache, mild fever, until you recover. Have someone bring you supplies. If you need to leave your house, wear a mask to avoid infecting others. Why? Avoiding contact with others will protect them from possible COVID-19 and other viruses.
- If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention, but call by telephone in advance if possible and follow the directions of your local health authority. Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your health care provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
- Keep up to date on the latest information from trusted sources, such as WHO or your local and national health authorities. Why? Local and national authorities are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
COVID-19 causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza. While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease.
Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected.