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Infectious diseases

Although the medical field has steadily progressed over the last couple of decades, the COVID-19 outbreak showed us that the world is still not adequately prepared for the future of disease control. Factors like increased climate change, poor infrastructure, population growth, and insufficient infection prevention and management, contribute to making new outbreaks more likely in the coming years.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a relentless illustration of the devastation consequences of zoonotic diseases, which occur when viruses spread from animals to people. The SARS-CoV-2 virus rapidly spread across borders, and only a month after the first case was detected, The World Health Organisation declared the situation a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. Merely two months later, on the 11th of March 2020, a statement was issued from the organisation, officially rendering the virus a pandemic outbreak. A majority of countries adopted strict safety measures in an attempt to control the spread of the virus, with some countries declaring complete lock-downs.

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, it has been reported more than 600 million cases, and close to 6.5 million deaths worldwide. Although the most stringent safety measures have since been lifted in most parts of the world, there are still hundreds of thousands of new cases reported every single day. The Americas has been hit the hardest, with almost 3 million deaths, closely followed by Europe who has reported more than 2 million COVID-related deaths since the beginning of 2020. Tracking the disease is a difficult task, as the symptoms in many cases mirror the common flu, and the disease easily spreads through close contact with infected persons. Because of this, it is believed that the actual number of cases is much higher than what has been officially reported. Moreover, in many less developed countries, where resources and expertise is more sparse, infection detection and control is even more difficult.

The COVID-19 pandemic only adds to the list of infectious diseases worldwide. Ebola is an other zoonotic disease, which has seen outbreaks occurring since the 2014-outbreak in West Africa. Although this specific outbreak has since ended, cases have been reported as recently as in April and August of this year. The recent Monkeypox outbreak, which was first discovered in West Africa, has also caused great concern for The World Health Organisation, who has classified it as a ‘disease of global public health importance’. Monkeypox is no longer a disease isolated to countries in West Africa, as it has now been discovered on all continents.

Scientists agree that future pandemics and virus outbreaks will occur, but there is no way to say for certain when, where, or even how severe the consequences will be. Complete protection against these diseases is also difficult, because vaccines can not be developed pre-outbreak. What we can do in the meantime, is to improve preparedness measures, and invest in medical research.

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