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Proposing a practical approach in responding to future pandemic
30. September 2020 at 12:02
This is a very important topic that should not be taken for granted. As the saying goes… “The best time to prepare for war, is when there is peace.” It is not bad if we start preparing in advance for any future occurrence of another pandemic.

This is a very important topic that should not be taken for granted. As the saying goes… “The best time to prepare for war, is when there is peace.” It is not bad if we start preparing in advance for any future occurrence of another pandemic.

Though we are still fighting with the present Covid-19 pandemic, we can see that it is dying off and we can immediately begin to layout strategic ways, methods and approaches to combat future ones.

We do not pray for another incidence like this but we should prepare for it in case it occurs again so we can arrest it quickly than allow it to take millions of lives before we start acting.

Before I proceed it would be needful for me to define the term ‘pandemic’. A pandemic is defined as an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people.[1]

Planning is critical to mitigating the sudden and potentially catastrophic impact of an infectious disease pandemic on society.  This is aimed at reducing morbidity and mortality, as well as the socio/economic effects of a possible pandemic. [2]

To help us in this, let us first look at some recommendations for good practice in pandemic preparedness at the national, regional and local (primary and secondary health care workers) levels and from there we move on to the proposed key steps to helping reduce the risk of a future pandemic.

National Level

Issues important for good pandemic preparedness and response:

1. Strong leadership and government engagement in conducting pandemic plans and preparedness activities (PPA)

2. Appropriate government funding of PPA

3. Effectiveness of the planning process and development of the pandemic plan

4. Effective communication among health care professionals, the public and other stakeholders

5. Effective strategies for implementing pandemic interventions

6. Development of professional capacity for successful implementation of PPA

Regional Level


To ensure good pandemic preparedness and response by the Member States, specific issues needing to be addressed are related to:

1.  Planning and implementation/response

2.  Risk communication

3.  Health care workers’ adherence to vaccination

4.  Vaccine supply and procurement strategies.

Primary and Secondary Health Care

To ensure good pandemic preparedness and response by the Member States, specific issues of importance to primary and secondary health care workers need to be addressed.

Recommendations for good practice

1. Planning process effectiveness

To improve the planning process effectiveness national and regional plans, with related clinical management guidelines, infection control and operational guidelines, provide a good basis for the planning stages in hospitals and are required during the response.

2. Rational use of limited diagnostic capacity

To ensure the rational use of diagnostic capacity, the prioritization of testing for surveillance versus clinical purposes, especially within a limited-resource environment, should be determined according to the different stages that might occur during a pandemic (e.g. period of detection of first cases, the period of trying to delay spread, the period when there is widespread community transmission), and depending on the severity, through addressing these issues within the national pandemic plan, laboratory contingency plans and guidance for frontline health care workers on the appropriate use of testing.

3. Role of family doctors in PPA

To increase the involvement of family doctors in PPA family doctor views should be given more weight when PPA is undertaken.

4. Communication effectiveness within the health care system

To improve communication effectiveness within the health care system the development of vertical networks between the ministries of health and health care workers is needed.

5. Need for intensive care unit (ICU) capacity building

6. Delivery and acceptance of vaccines

As acceptance of a vaccine by patients is linked to health care workers’ endorsement, it is important to improve acceptance among health care workers and the public as an important pandemic preparedness and response measure by providing supportive and informational material on the benefits and risks of new vaccines to health care workers. [3]


Below is a proposed three key steps to helping reduce the risk of a future pandemic similar to that caused by the novel Coronavirus 2019-nCoV;

1. Surveillance of wildlife for high-risk pathogens.

It has been discovered from research that people living at the wildlife-human interface in rural China were being exposed to SARs-related coronavirus, perhaps even the same virus as nCoV-2019. So it is important that scientists in countries such as this work to discover all of these viruses so that we can catalogue them, develop a reference library for rapid pathogen identification and risk assessment, and test vaccines and therapies against them.

2. Surveillance and risk reduction in people at high risk of contact with wildlife.

Surveillance programs can be designed by local public health authorities to identify communities living in regions with high wildlife diversity and likely high diversity of novel viruses. People with frequent contact with wild or domestic animals related to their livelihood and occupation, and patients presenting acute respiratory infection (ARI) or Influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms with unknown aetiology can be included into the surveillance as a cost-effective method to identify novel virus spillovers. This pre-outbreak surveillance strategy can be coordinated with different sectors of public health, healthcare, agriculture and forestry to implement sample collection and testing of wildlife, domestic animals, and people in collaboration with research institutions. These efforts will help identify and characterize viral genetic sequence, identify high-risk human populations with antibodies and cell-mediated immunity responses to wildlife-origin CoVs, as well as the risk factors in human behaviours and living environment through interviews. Evidence-based strategies to reduce risk can then be designed and implemented in the communities where viral spillover is identified.

3. Improve the biosecurity of the wildlife trade and animal markets.

The wildlife trade has played a role in the emergence of 2019-nCoV, as well as previous diseases in China (SARS) and across the world (e.g. monkeypox in the USA, Ebola in Africa, salmonellosis in the USA and Europe). China's response in the current outbreak was swift and broad: The index market was closed down immediately and once the virus spread, the wildlife trade was banned temporarily in certain provinces, then nationally. Recent behavioural risk investigations in China identified low levels of environmental biosecurity and high levels of human-animal contact as key risk factors for zoonotic disease emergence, particularly in local wet and animal markets. While the current wildlife trade bans may help disease control at this moment, to prevent future disease emergence, market biosecurity needs to be improved regarding the hygiene and sanitation facilities and regulations, and the source of animals traded at the market. From a viral emergence perspective, farmed animals are likely a lower risk than wild-caught animals. However, given the size of the wildlife farming industry in China, routine disease surveillance and veterinary care at farms and in transport to markets would need to be improved. The connection between this outbreak and wildlife trade has triggered a strong public opinion against wildlife consumption, and scientists have jointly called for an urgent amendment of the Wildlife Protection Law to standardize and manage wildlife trade as a public health and security issue. It requires collaboration among the State Forestry and Grassland Administration, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, State Administration for Market Regulation and public health authorities to tackle this issue as a long-term goal.

Dealing with the risk of future epidemics and pandemics requires a global effort. China is located within a major ‘emerging disease hotspot’ in Southeast Asia, but there is also a high risk of future diseases originating in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America. Furthermore, the drivers of disease emergence are human activities that are expanding on a global scale, including deforestation, agricultural intensification and the wildlife trade. This has led to an exponential increase in the frequency of animal-human contact and the likelihood of novel disease emergence and spread, suggesting that pandemics will become more frequent and more devastating in the future. These threats face all countries because once diseases emerge, they travel rapidly and freely through our global networks of travel and trade. [4]  


To conclude this essay, I would like to quote what UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said. “The science is clear that if we keep exploiting wildlife and destroying our ecosystems, then we can expect to see a steady stream of these diseases jumping from animals to humans in the years ahead. Pandemics are devastating to our lives and our economies. And as we have seen over the past months, it is the poorest and the most vulnerable who suffer the most. To prevent future outbreaks, we must become much more deliberate about protecting our natural environment.” [5]


The abbreviations used in the essay and their meanings are given below.

PPA – Pandemic plans and preparedness activities

ICU – Intensive care unit

nCoV – 2019 - Corona virus disease 2019

SARs – Severe acute respiratory syndrome

ARI – Acute respiratory infection

ILI – Influenza-like illness

UNEP – United Nations Environment Programme

BAMSSA - Basic Medical Science Students Association


1. Heath Kelly – The Classical Definition of a Pandemic is not elusive. Bulletin of the world health organization 2011; 89: 540-541. doi: 10. 2471/BLT.11.088815. Retrieved from,are%20not%20considered%20pandemics.

2. Shearer FM, Moss R, McVernon J, Ross JV, McCaw JM (2020) Infectious disease pandemic planning and response: Incorporating decision analysis. PLoS Med 17(1): e1003018.

3. Recommendations for Good Practice in Pandemic Preparedness – Identified through evaluation of the response to pandemic (H1N1) 2009 By WHO Regional Office For Europe. Retrieved from

4. Peter, D., Kevin, J.O., and Hongying, L. (2020): A Strategy To Prevent Future Epidemics Similar to the 2019-nCoV Outbreak. Retrieved from

5. Ten practical solutions to prevent future pandemics emerging from animal sources - UN report. Retrieved from

Cite This Article As: Meshach Idoko. "Proposing a practical approach in responding to future pandemic." International Youth Journal, 30. September 2020.

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