Quarantine ward Tim Brakemeier/Getty Images

Preempting the Next Pandemic

The diversity and resilience of deadly viruses make it difficult to develop effective global containment and prevention strategies. But while biology plays a role, the biggest obstacle to protecting public health is the uniquely human trait of bickering over money and how it should be spent.

SYRACUSE – Recent disease outbreaks, like Ebola and Zika, have demonstrated the need to anticipate pandemics and contain them before they emerge. But the sheer diversity, resilience, and transmissibility of deadly diseases have also highlighted, in the starkest of terms, just how difficult containment and prevention can be.

One threat to our preparedness is our connectedness. It was thanks to easy international travel that in recent years the dengue, chikungunya, and Zika viruses were all able to hitch a ride from east to west, causing massive outbreaks in the Americas and Caribbean. Another threat is more mundane: failing to agree about money. Whatever the reason, the fact is that as long as humans fail to organize a collective and comprehensive defense, infectious diseases will continue to wreak havoc – with disastrous consequences.

Building an effective prevention and containment strategy – being bio-prepared – is the best way to reduce the threat of a global contagion. Preparedness requires coordination among agencies and funders to build networks that enable quick deployment of and access to vaccines, drugs, and protocols that limit a disease’s transmission. Simply stated, preparing for the next pandemic means not only building global capacity, but also paying for it.