Updated Guidance Helps Prevent Pandemics at All Levels

An updated guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) has been released, the last such guidance dating back to 2009. The revised guidelines address concerns about the recent influenza and infection outbreaks, including H7N9 and MERS-CoV, and attempts to help in the coordination of efforts between the national and international communities to fight such outbreaks.

While similar in some respects to previous guidelines released in 1999, 2005, and 2009, the 2013 guidance focuses on efforts to determine the risk of outbreaks at a local or national level as opposed to a worldwide outbreak. It is believed that stopping a virus outbreak at a local level can keep them from spreading to pandemic levels in the first place, according to an article posted on http://news.xinhuanet.com.

The new WHO guidance stresses how repeated risk assessment, at all levels, plays a crucial role in disease prevention. By separating outbreaks to their individual countries, the appropriate resources can be brought to bear, giving officials more flexibility when it comes to fighting outbreaks.

The guidance lists three indicators to help local and national leaders assess an outbreak: transmissibility, the seriousness of the disease, and impact on the local healthcare sector. The entire process follows a pre-determined course of exposing the risks posed by any particular outbreak, starting with officials determining the transmissibility of the disease in question. This is mainly to determine its seriousness and if more resources need to be brought to bear to combat the spreading of the disease, or if it can be easily contained to a localized area with the appropriate quarantines and protocols in place. Its impact on the healthcare sector further determines if additional resources, possibly from the global community, need to be used.

In addition to the local level, health officials need to conduct risk assessments at all levels, including both national and on a global scale. In this way, hopefully a pandemic can be averted. It is especially important to refine risks at other levels as influenced by risk assessments at a different level. Only by looking at the overall picture can world health officials hope to stop the spread of future diseases. That is what the new WHO guidance hopes to facilitate.

 

For more information about the WHO guidelines, visit:
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/health/2013-06/11/c_132447405.htm
and
http://www.who.int/influenza/preparedness/pandemic/influenza_risk_management/en/index.html