The World Health Organization on Monday released a Global Influenza Strategy for 2019-2030 aimed at protecting people in all countries from the threat of influenza.
The goal of the strategy is to prevent seasonal influenza, control the spread of influenza from animals to humans, and prepare for the next influenza pandemic.
“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.”
According to WHO, Influenza remains one of the world’s greatest public health challenges. Every year across the globe, there are an estimated 1 billion cases, of which 3 to 5 million are severe cases, resulting in 290 000 to 650 000 influenza-related respiratory deaths.
WHO recommends annual influenza vaccination as the most effective way to prevent influenza.
Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications and for health care workers.
WHO said the new strategy is the most comprehensive and far-reaching that it has ever developed for influenza.
It outlines a path to protect populations every year and helps prepare for a pandemic through strengthening routine programmes.
WHO explained that the programme has two major goals which includes:
- 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.
- 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,” he added.
WHO advocates for effective partnerships to successfully implement the strategy.
Through the implementation of the new WHO global influenza strategy, the world will be closer to reducing the impact of influenza every year and be more prepared for an influenza pandemic and other public health emergencies, WHO said.