Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022
People around the world are already preparing for the next pandemic. Because one thing we can be sure of — there will be another one. Pandemics have occurred throughout history and now, with about 7.58 billion people on the planet, we can be sure they will happen even more often. I read two books in early 2020 that predicted the pandemic we’re currently in. Only both authors both expected the next pandemic to be an influenza virus.
And maybe it will – next time. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the five virus families most likely to cause the next pandemic are: Coronaviridae (the one we have now), Flavidiviridae, Togaviridae (both spread by mosquitoes), Orthomyxoviridae (includes all influenza), and Paramyxoviridae (has killed four people in Australia). Note: Viral outbreaks are getting more frequent.
The Sydney Morning Herald had a great graph of viral outbreaks from the 1918 flu to the 2020 COVID:
Compare this graph of viral outbreaks with the one below showing population increase since 1960. More people = faster spread.
Fortunately, researchers are getting ready. Here are three examples of preparation that are happening right now:
- Vaccine initiatives: Japan has launched a $2-billion vaccine-research initiative with the goal of having large-scale production of a vaccine ready within 100 days of a pandemic pathogen being identified. The research center, called SCARDA (Strategic Center of Biomedical Advance Vaccine Research and Development for Preparedness and Response) will open in November and research vaccines for eight pathogens, using variety of vaccine technologies. Japan’s initiative follows a similar 100 Days Mission launched at the UK-hosted G7 meetings with the goal of working toward a world plan to meet the challenge of a pandemic within 100 days.
- Treatments and therapeutics: Australia has launched a $1.5 billion initiative to research treatments and therapies that can be tested and applied within weeks or months of a new pandemic threat. The new center, called CGCPT (The Cumming Global Centre for Pandemic Therapeutics) opened on August 31, 2022. CGCPT plans to look beyond antivirals like Paxlovid and investigate new treatments for potential pandemic pathogens like influenza, coronaviruses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Other centers focused on therapeutics for potential pandemic viruses include: the Antiviral Drug Discovery Centers for Pathogens of Pathogenic Concern in the United States and Germany’s National Alliance for Pandemic Therapeutics.
- Hospital redesign: When the pandemic started, hospitals found that specialized areas like intensive care units (ICU’s) and isolation wards were not adequate for an influx of large numbers of patients who required ventilators, special airflow systems, electric, gas, and equipment mounts–and were highly contagious as well. Some hospitals are incorporating the need for flexibility into new areas, like Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, planning for banks of rooms that can be adapted to changing needs. The Advisory Board article (link below) also recommends that hospitals rethink patient and staff flow from one area into another and reimagine waiting room design to accommodate patients safely.
We have so many vital concerns these days–climate change, drought, war, energy–to name a few. It’s important to keep preparation for the next pandemic a high priority.
Today’s Notable Headlines
“The five virus families most likely to cause the next pandemic,” The Sydney Morning Herald, Aug. 30, 2022. https://www.smh.com.au/national/the-five-virus-families-most-likely-to-cause-the-next-pandemic-20220829-p5bdh0.html
“Japan’s $2-billion initiative to prep pandemic vaccines in 100 days,” Nature, Sept 23, 2022. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-03000-3
“Billion-dollar project aims to prep drugs before the next pandemic,” Nature, Aug. 31, 2022. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-022-02776-8
“‘The future of hospitals’: How health systems are remodeling for the next crisis,” Advisory Board, Sept. 15, 2022. https://www.advisory.com/daily-briefing/2022/09/15/hospital-design
Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), https://aspr.hhs.gov/AboutASPR/ProgramOffices/BARDA/Pages/default.aspx
100 Days Mission: First Implementation Report – HTML, Updated Dec. 7, 2021. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/100-days-mission-first-implementation-report/100-days-mission-first-implementation-report-html
“Antiviral Drug Discovery (AViDD) Centers for Pathogens of Pandemic Concern,” NIH, reviewed May 24, 2022. https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/antiviral-drug-discovery-centers-pathogens-pandemic-concern
“Strengthening Australia’s Pandemic Preparedness,” CSIRO, updated 21 Sept. 2022. https://www.csiro.au/en/work-with-us/services/consultancy-strategic-advice-services/CSIRO-futures/Health/Strengthening-Australias-Pandemic-Preparedness
Why am I doing this?
The coronavirus pandemic is a watershed historical event. People will be referring to “before the pandemic” or “after the pandemic” for decades to come. Since March 11, 2020, this blog has examined the modern pandemic experience, drawing on my background as a medical technologist, a historian, and an ordinary person living through an extraordinary world crisis. My sources, both primary and secondary, are documented with links for easy reference.