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Pandemic Treaty and Disease X

By Amigos IAS

Why is it in the news?

  • The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling upon member nations to endorse a pandemic treaty aimed at bolstering global readiness for forthcoming health emergencies.

More about the news

  • The Pandemic Treaty initiative was introduced in March 2021 by a coalition of world leaders aiming to address the inadequacies in global preparedness and response to pandemics.
  • The objective is to fortify national, regional, and global capacities to effectively manage and mitigate the impact of future health crises.

Components:

  • The treaty emphasizes the necessity of unified action on a global scale, recognizing that pandemics transcend borders and require collaborative efforts among nations, international organizations, and stakeholders.
  • It underscores the importance of enhancing healthcare infrastructure, workforce capacity, and healthcare delivery systems to better withstand and respond to pandemics, especially in low- and middle-income countries where resources may be limited.
  • Prioritizing investment in scientific research and development of vaccines, medicines, diagnostics, and other medical countermeasures is crucial for anticipating and combating emerging pathogens effectively.
  • Transparency in data-sharing, surveillance, and communication is vital for early detection, monitoring, and containment of outbreaks.
  • Under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO), the treaty proposes the creation of a framework for equitable access to pathogens for research purposes while ensuring fair and ethical benefit-sharing arrangements.
  • Recognizing the essential role of women in healthcare, the treaty advocates for addressing gender disparities in the healthcare workforce, promoting gender equality, and ensuring equal opportunities for women in pandemic preparedness and response efforts.

Disease X

  • Coined by the World Health Organization (WHO), “Disease X” represents a hypothetical pathogen or disease entity with the potential to trigger a severe pandemic in the future.
  • Disease X could arise from a novel agent, such as a virus, bacterium, or fungus, for which no specific treatment or vaccine currently exists.
  • It could belong to any of the 25 families of viruses known to cause illness in humans, highlighting the diverse nature of potential pandemic threats and the need for comprehensive surveillance and preparedness efforts.
  • Disease X has been incorporated into the WHO’s Blueprint list of priority diseases since 2018, reflecting its recognition as a potential high-consequence threat requiring proactive monitoring and research.
  • Although the exact characteristics of Disease X remain speculative, experts warn that it could surpass the impact of recent pandemics, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, potentially being up to 20 times deadlier than the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
  • Despite efforts to anticipate and prepare for future pandemics, the specific identity and characteristics of Disease X remain elusive, underscoring the imperative for sustained vigilance, research, and readiness.

WHO Initiatives for Future Pandemics

The World Health Organization (WHO) has launched several initiatives aimed at enhancing global preparedness and response capabilities for future pandemics:

  • World Bank’s Pandemic Fund: Collaborative efforts involving multinational development banks, G20 countries, WHO, and civil society seek to bolster health systems in low- and middle-income countries, which are often disproportionately impacted by pandemics due to limited resources and infrastructure.
  • Financial Intermediary Fund for Pandemic Preparedness and Response: Established in 2022, this fund supports the implementation of early warning surveillance systems for zoonotic diseases, strengthening laboratory capacities, and enhancing emergency communication mechanisms to facilitate rapid response to outbreaks.
  • mRNA Technology Transfer Hub: Launched in June 2021, this initiative aims to facilitate the transfer of mRNA vaccine technology to developing countries, enabling local production and distribution of vaccines to combat COVID-19 and potentially other future pandemics.
  • WHO Hub for Pandemic and Epidemic Intelligence: This hub serves as a collaborative platform for developing a comprehensive research and development agenda, bridging the gap between academic institutions, public health agencies, and other stakeholders to foster innovation and knowledge sharing in pandemic preparedness and response.
  • WHO BioHub System: Facilitating the global sharing of viruses and pathogens, the BioHub system promotes collaboration and cooperation among countries and research institutions to enhance understanding of infectious diseases and develop effective strategies for prevention and control.
Zoonotic Diseases

·       Zoonotic diseases are infections that can be transmitted from animals to humans, posing significant public health risks.

·       These diseases can be caused by various pathogens, including viruses, bacteria, parasites, and fungi, and may originate from wildlife or domestic animals.

·       Examples of zoonotic diseases include influenza, Ebola virus disease, and COVID-19.

·       Effective surveillance, prevention, and control measures are essential for mitigating the spread of zoonotic diseases and preventing future pandemics.

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