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The Cost of Disease Outbreaks

Microbes have been within us or around us for millions of years. Although they can be useful to lives and civilization, many microbes are also identified as pathogens that can cause acute infectious diseases. Historically, microbes are the most significant cause of death in humans.


Pathogens may also trigger pathways to chronic diseases and transmit from one person to another through various media. The disruption of global ecosystems, impact of poverty – improper sanitation and infrastructure, the dynamics of human behaviour – rapid international travel and commerce; all these and more have contributed to the continuous spread of infectious diseases.


The magnitude of pandemics is also greater with novel pathogens, which can cause high mortality and/or hospitalization rates and spreads even faster. In the history of mankind, pandemics have caused millions of deaths, massive social disruption, and profound economic losses.


WHO tracked 1483 epidemic events in 172 countries from 2011 to 2018. The more frequently detected epidemics such as influenza virus, Ebola, Zika, plague, Yellow Fever, and others, are potentially fast-spreading outbreaks that are increasingly difficult to manage. They have the potential of escalating into international threats leading to loss of life, upend economies, and create social chaos.

Financial experts defined pandemic risk as a combination of low probability (1-3% per annum), infrequent occurrence, and high to severe economic impact (up to $3 trillion) depending on prevention and containment measures. The main concern is the underestimation of the effects, combined with complacency.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that pandemic risk today is more prevalent than earlier pandemics in the last 100 years.  Unless preparedness improves, epidemics are going to be costly in terms of direct and indirect impacts including ripple, spillover, and wider societal impacts.

The United Nations and WHO defined preparedness as the ability (knowledge, capacities, and organizational systems) to anticipate, detect and respond effectively to, and recover from, the impact of likely, imminent or current health emergencies, hazards, events or conditions.

Preparedness means putting in place mechanisms that will allow national authorities, multilateral organizations and relief organizations to be aware of risks and deploy staff and resources quickly once a crisis strikes.  With IPPC, countries will be able to channel their resources to deploy enormous amounts of funds for pandemic preparedness, thus reducing their healthcare burden in the long term. This allows resources to be allocated to essential nation-building services and infrastructure development.