WHO launches new global influenza strategy to assist pandemic planning

Published: Tuesday, 12 March 2019 09:14

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030 to assist in preparations for the next influenza pandemic, to reduce the impacts of seasonal influenza, and to control the spread of influenza from animals to humans.

“The threat of pandemic influenza is ever-present.” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “The on-going risk of a new influenza virus transmitting from animals to humans and potentially causing a pandemic is real. The question is not if we will have another pandemic, but when. We must be vigilant and prepared – the cost of a major influenza outbreak will far outweigh the price of prevention.”

WHO says that the new strategy is the most comprehensive and far-reaching that it has ever developed for influenza. It has two overarching goals:

1. Build stronger country capacities for disease surveillance and response, prevention and control, and preparedness. To achieve this, it calls for every country to have a tailored influenza programme that contributes to national and global preparedness and health security.

2. Develop better tools to prevent, detect, control and treat influenza, such as more effective vaccines, antivirals and treatments, with the goal of making these accessible for all countries.

“With the partnerships and country-specific work we have been doing over the years, the world is better prepared than ever before for the next big outbreak, but we are still not prepared enough,” said Dr Tedros. “This strategy aims to get us to that point. Fundamentally, it is about preparing health systems to manage shocks, and this only happens when health systems are strong and healthy themselves.”

Important to the strategy is the on-going success of the Pandemic Influenza Preparedness Framework, a unique access and benefit sharing system that supports the sharing of potentially pandemic viruses, provides access to life saving vaccines and treatments in the event of a pandemic and supports the building of pandemic preparedness capacities in countries through partnership contributions from industry.

The strategy meets one of WHO’s mandates to improve core capacities for public health, and increase global preparedness and was developed through a consultative process with input from Member States, academia, civil society, industry, and internal and external experts.

Supporting countries to strengthen their influenza capacity will have collateral benefits in detecting infection in general, since countries will be able to better identify other infectious diseases like Ebola or Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

More details.