Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC issued a strong statement saying that Americans should prepare “for significant disruption of our lives." The fast-spreading virus has killed more than 29,000 worldwide and infected 84,000 more. The first death in Washington state has been reported, and 22 additional cases confirmed in the U.S.
Professor of medicine and infectious diseases Dr. Gregory Poland said that “we are basically in a pandemic now and it should be treated as such.” A pandemic should not be confused with an epidemic. An epidemic sickens many people locally. A pandemic is when many people are sickened worldwide.
Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said that the world may be “dangerously unprepared for the next pandemic” as the coronavirus that began in Wuhan, China continues to spread to other countries.
Director Ghebreyesus urged the World Health Organization’s 196 member countries to “invest in preparedness.” He added, “If we fail to prepare, we are preparing to fail.” He also stated that “the continued increase in cases and the evidence of human-to-human transmission outside of China were most deeply disturbing.”
As far back as 2007, Michael T. Osterholm of Foreign Affairs sounded the alarm by publishing three articles “that sounded a clarion call to prepare for the next pandemic.” He warned, “that another pandemic could occur at any time and at a staggering cost to human health and the world economy.”
Osterholm referred to a study by the Lowy Institute for International Policy, which found that a mild pandemic similar to that in 1968 would kill 1.4 million people, and if a pandemic as severe as that of 1918 occurred, over 142.2 million people would die.
In addition, Osterholm bemoaned the fact that the study “had only generated a limited amount of attention worldwide because preparing for a pandemic is a daunting challenge to begin with, and because disaster has not yet struck.”
“The interconnectedness of the global economy today could make the next influenza pandemic more devastating than the ones before it. Even the slightest disruption in the availability of workers, electricity, water, petroleum-based products, and other products or parts could bring many aspects of contemporary life to a halt,” Osterholm writes.