People across the world are watching the progress of the Wuhan Coronavirus (now known as 2019-nCoV) and the implications of dealing with another full-fledged pandemic.
The latest World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on January 30, 2020 resulted in the international body declaring the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. It noted
“The Committee believes that it is still possible to interrupt virus spread, provided that countries put in place strong measures to detect disease early, isolate and treat cases, trace contacts, and promote social distancing measures commensurate with the risk.”
With that in mind, let’s take a step back from 2019-nCoV for a moment and review a few other significant outbreaks of infectious diseases that have affected regions, countries and even continents.
SARS – 2003
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) is a type of pneumonia that spread across over two dozen countries between February and July 2003, believed to have originated in the Chinese province of Guangdong (located nearly 1,000 km south of Wuhan).
By the end of 2003, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO estimated that 8,096 people had been infected across 29 countries, resulting in 774 deaths.
H1N1 – 2009-2010
Influenza A (H1N1) was a novel strain of flu virus in 2009, but it spread from its point of origin in Mexico across North America at a rapid pace. The H1N1 pandemic was unique in that it tended to affect younger populations, many of whom didn’t have antibodies to fight the virus.
Between April 2009 and April 2010, the CDC estimated that there were 60.8 million cases of H1N1 in the U.S. alone, resulting in 12,469 deaths. This strain of flu virus is still active and continues to cause complications in patients, even today.
Ebola – 2014-2016
Ebola is a highly contagious virus that induces hemorrhagic fever in patients, resulting in significant mortality rates. The disease was first discovered in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976, and just like SARS, MERS, H1N1, and 2019-nCoV, researchers believe the disease is animal-borne.
The virus surged during a widespread outbreak in West Africa from 2014-2016, hailed as the worst outbreak of Ebola since the disease’s discovery. By the end of the outbreak, more than 28,600 cases were confirmed alongside 11,325 deaths.
Controlling Disease Through Prevention
The above infectious diseases share something in common: Outbreaks were accelerated by each region’s inability to isolate and contain infected persons in a safe, sustainable way. This is why containment solutions like the ISOPOD™ are so necessary to have on hand, both for protecting medical first responders and for preventing the spread of the disease itself. Outbreaks can surge at a moment’s notice—and as global agencies like WHO suggest, the only way forward is through better collaboration, research, and cooperation.