Preparing for the Next Pandemic: What Will It Be?
The danger of pandemics has become greater than ever.
The recent Ebola outbreak has spread both disease and worry, though it wasn’t a pandemic. Still, it has raised interest in what the next pandemic might be — and what can be done to either stop it or prepare for it.
A pandemic is an infectious disease in human populations that has spread worldwide and affected many people in almost all countries, said Thomas Campbell, professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.
“What we’re talking about is the global spread of an infectious disease,” he said. (This is why Ebola doesn’t meet the definition; the cases are concentrated in just a few countries, with a few others having a handful of cases.)
The spread doesn’t have to be fast for a disease to be considered a pandemic — HIV is a recent example of a slow-spreading pandemic — and the illness doesn’t have to be deadly. “Severity is not part of the pandemic definition, but we are more concerned about the ones that are severe and have the most potential to cause death or harm,” Campbell said.