Contact Us

Bird flu shows world not ready for future pandemics: report

According to a report released on Tuesday, the recent increase in cases of bird flu among mammals, including cattle in the US, serves as a clear reminder that our global preparedness for potential pandemics is lacking. The report emphasizes the need for swift action from leaders.

Published June 18,2024

Surging cases of bird flu among mammals, including US cattle, offer a stark warning that the world is not ready to fend off future pandemics, a report said on Tuesday, urging leaders to act quickly.

More than four years since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, politicians are "gambling through neglect" by not putting enough money or effort into avoiding a repeat of the disaster, the report said.

The bird flu H5N1 has been increasingly jumping over to mammals, including cattle in farms across the United States as well as a few humans, prompting fears the virus could spark a future pandemic.

"If H5N1 began to spread from person to person, the world would likely again be overwhelmed," the report's co-author and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark told a press conference.

It could even be "more disastrous, potentially, than Covid", said Clark.

"We just aren't equipped enough to stop outbreaks before they spread further," she said, also pointing to a deadlier strain of mpox particularly affecting children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

While wealthy countries have vaccines that could fight this mpox outbreak, they have not been made available to the central African country, she said.

Now two people have died from the mpox strain in South Africa, illustrating how neglect can lead to such pathogens spreading, she said.

The report was led by Clark and Liberian ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who previously served as co-chairs of an independent panel advising the World Health Organization on pandemic preparedness.

Despite the advice from the panel in 2021, "the funds now available pale in comparison to the needs, and high-income countries are holding on too tightly to traditional charity-based approaches to equity," Clark said.

The report pointed out that WHO members have still not sealed a much-discussed pandemic agreement, mainly due to differences between well-off nations and those who felt cut adrift during the Covid crisis.

The report called for governments and international organisations to agree to a new pandemic accord by December, as well as funding more efforts to boost vaccine production, bolstering WHO's power and boosting national efforts to fight off viruses.

To emphasise the potential threat, the report pointed to modelling research suggesting there is a one-in-two chance the world will suffer a pandemic of a similar size to Covid in the next 25 years.