New Delhi: There’s a 27.5 per cent chance a pandemic as deadly as COVID-19 could take place in the next decade as viruses emerge more frequently, with rapid vaccine rollout the key to reducing fatalities, according to a predictive health analytics firm.
Climate change, growth in international travel, increasing populations and the threat posed by zoonotic diseases contribute to the risk, according to London-based Airfinity Ltd. But if effective vaccines are rolled out 100 days after the discovery of a new pathogen, the likelihood of a deadly pandemic drops to 8.1 per cent, according to the firm’s modeling.
In a worst-case scenario, a bird flu type virus that mutates to allow human-to-human transmission could kill as many as 15,000 people in the UK in a single day, Airfinity said.
With the world now living with COVID-19, health experts are turning their attention to preparing for the next potential global threat. The past two decades have already seen three major coronaviruses that cause SARS, MERS and C-19 emerge, as well as the swine flu pandemic in 2009.
The rapid spread of the H5N1 bird flu strain is already stoking concerns. While so far just a small number of people have been infected and there are no signs of it having made the jump to human-to-human transmission, skyrocketing rates in birds and increasing incursions in mammals have led to concern among scientists and governments that the virus may be mutating in ways that could make it easier to spread.
Many high-risk pathogens like MERS and zika don’t have approved vaccines or treatments, and existing surveillance policies are unlikely to detect a new pandemic in a timely manner, highlighting the urgent need for pandemic preparedness measures, Airfinity said.