Thu | Dec 3, 2020

Large outbreaks of diseases to become the new norm -- WHO

Published:Saturday | June 8, 2019 | 1:59 PM

The world is entering a “new phase" where large outbreaks of deadly diseases such as Ebola are the "new normal", the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned.

As a result, the WHO said countries and other bodies need to focus on preparing for new deadly epidemics.

The warning comes as the Democratic Republic of Congo is dealing with the second largest Ebola outbreak in history, just three years after the largest one ended.

Officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo report that there have been 2,025 cases of Ebola which have resulted in 1,357 deaths.

The largest Ebola outbreak occurred across West Africa between 2014 and 2016 when over 28,616 cases were reported mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and resulted in 11,310 deaths.

According to the WHO, there were 12 Ebola outbreaks between 2000 and 2010, which averaged fewer than 100 cases.

So why are modern outbreaks so much bigger?

"We are entering a very new phase of high impact epidemics and this isn't just Ebola," Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the WHO's health emergencies programme told The British Broadcasting Corporation.

He says the world is "seeing a very worrying convergence of risks" that are increasing the dangers of diseases including Ebola, cholera and yellow fever.

He says climate change, emerging diseases, exploitation of the rainforest, large and highly mobile populations, weak governments and conflict were making outbreaks more likely to occur and more likely to swell in size once they did.

Dr Ryan revealed that the WHO is tracking 160 disease events around the world and nine were grade three emergencies (the WHO's highest emergency level).

“I don't think we've ever had a situation where we're responding to so many emergencies at one time. This is a new normal and I don't expect the frequency of these events to reduce."

As a result, he argued that countries and other bodies needed to "get to grips with readiness and be ready for these epidemics".

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