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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds JIMMY WHITWORTH: One of the things I’ve noticed in recent years is a converging of the communities that deal with humanitarian crises, whether they’re displaced people, earthquakes, floods, whatever, and the infectious disease outbreak world. And there’s much more communication between them than there used to be. And I think that’s all for the good. A number of the national rapid response teams that are being established are focused on all -hazards. Some of them are focused just on infectious diseases, but many cover a broader area than that. Now this is probably sensible, because we’ve got more displaced people in the world than ever before.

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds We know that countries with weak health systems and with disrupted economies are more likely to have outbreaks of infectious diseases. So the two are likely to happen more frequently in the future. With outbreaks, there is a golden hour, if you like, in which to respond, during which time the number of cases is small, and the geographical area affected is constrained. That makes it much easier to control with an outbreak. If you delay, either by not recognising it or not taking any action, then this is liable to spread. Now humans travel more than they ever used to, both within their own countries, whether that’s by buses or cars or whatever.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 seconds But also, international travel by planes has increased massively, which means that an outbreak in one part of the world can be somewhere else within 12 hours. Now because we need to act fast, we can think about what the consequences would be if we didn’t act fast, and we let this go. Let’s take the example of HIV. If we’d been able to recognise that HIV was occurring in a small number of people in an African village when it first emerged from monkey populations, then it would have been much easier to control.

Skip to 2 minutes and 31 seconds As it is, we have allowed a pandemic to evolve, and to affect people all around the world, and this is with us, and will probably stay us for many decades to come. The Ebola outbreak really brought to our attention that the global way in which we respond to outbreaks is inadequate. The response was slow, it was ill-coordinated, it was dysfunctional in many ways. And there’s been a lot of discussion since that happened about ways in which this can be improved for the future. WHO are taking a strong line on this, and they are developing a global emergency health workforce. And many countries are developing their own rapid response teams that can feed into that.

Skip to 3 minutes and 27 seconds And the aim is that that means that we will be better organised and much faster at being able to deal with outbreaks in the future.

Infectious diseases

International displacement of large numbers of people, weak health systems, and disrupted economies will undoubtedly lead to more infectious disease outbreaks in the future. What are we doing to ensure that we are prepared for them?

In the video, Professor Jimmy Whitworth discusses the increasing overlap between the world of infectious diseases and humanitarian actors. He highlights the changes in global development that make us more susceptible to outbreaks, and the need to strengthen our efforts with rapid response teams.

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This video is from the free online course:

Health in Humanitarian Crises

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine