Why do we need a pandemic management system?
For centuries, pandemics have haunted humanity. The Plague of Justinian wiped out nearly half the human population in the world. The Black Death killed 75 to 200 million people and the 1918 flu pandemic infected half a billion people. In 2016, a research done by the Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future estimated that the aftereffects from pandemic diseases would cost the world economy over $6 trillion in the 21st century — which is speculated to be over $60 billion a year.
Pandemics cause supply chain disruptions and economic slowdown all over the world. Individuals, businesses, and government agencies are affected due to a shortage of supplies and human resources. A defining characteristic of a pandemic is its contagious nature. This is why most governments impose lock-downs or strict social distancing measures to curb the spread of infection. However, these lock-downs are associated with numerous drawbacks.
Let’s have a walk through into some of our findings on risks, impacts, mitigation, and knowledge gaps involved in the need for a pandemic management system.
- Throughout history, most pandemics that have appeared around the world are caused by viral diseases that are first seen in animals.
- A pandemic spread becomes deadly to a mass population when we are unable to predict the way it diffuses into the human population.
- Also when it comes to pandemic preparedness, both Central and West African countries lag far behind the rest of the world.
- Probabilistic modeling methods and many other analytical tools could be used to analyze the potential pandemic risk and the potential burden that a pandemic could have on society.
- Privacy concerns are associated with most of contact tracing applications.
- COVID-19 is one such deadly pathogen that has been declared as a pandemic. Analysis indicates that if left alone in a year, there is an 80% chance of COVID-19 pandemic causing nearly 15 million deaths or more worldwide.
- A potential pandemic can cause a considerable increase in morbidity and mortality to low to middle-income countries (LMICs).
- Moreover, a pandemic spread could cause adverse effects on an economy through multiple channels, this involves both short-term fiscal shocks and long-term negative shocks that could disrupt economic growth.
- The behavioral changes due to fear of being infected shown by people in the time of a pandemic spread could make them have an aversion to working environments and public gatherings — this is the main source of the long-term negative shock.
- It could even create an unbalance in the economic condition of society.
- War-prone country borders, countries with political instability or weak law and order systems, quarantine measures could even set ablaze violence and tension between states and citizens.
- A viable method for pandemic preparedness involves restraining the overuse of resources, strengthening public health infrastructure, better situational awareness, and constantly monitoring potential sources of pandemic spread.
- During a pandemic spread, it’s better to have a response team capable of conveying situational awareness, coordinated health care messages, and treating the infected ones.
- A reliable pandemic response plan should be able to provide treatment for the infected without intervention and at the same time should also protect the health care members from being infected themselves.
- But for countries with poor pandemic preparedness plans, their chances to shut down the pandemic spread in their country entirely depends on foreign aid providers.
- But then again, there are limits to how much foreign aid providers could do if it’s a full-scale global pandemic spread.
- Also, a government must be ready with risk pooling mechanisms like insurance coverages, tax exemptions, setting up quarantine shelters for the infected, etc are all viable choices for controlling a pandemic spread.
- Firstly, poor tracking of the spending's on pandemic preparedness and response efforts would definitely backfire on the government itself.
- Secondly, it’s better to accept that there is no widely accepted action plan for any pandemic spread.
- Thirdly, moreover every data associated with a pandemic crisis handling action plan comes from high-income countries (HIC’s), thus it leads to biasing and vulnerable blind spots in the pandemic action plan of low to middle-income countries (LMIC’s).
The recently imposed lock-down in India for COVID-19 illustrates the dangers of imposing a lock-down without adequate preparation. Migrant families were forced to walk thousands of miles back to their villages as they were left stranded without food or wages. In a lot of cases, people do not adhere to the rules of the lock-down either. Needless to say, it would be unwise to depend on social distancing alone in the fight against a pandemic. In such a scenario, how can governments contain such infections effectively?
Many countries are making use of contact tracing apps that can alert citizens when they are near a patient that has tested positive for the virus. Australia has launched an app called COVIDSafe that works on this principle. The app uses Bluetooth to record other users who come in contact with you. The two apps exchange anonymized IDs, which cycle every two hours and are stored encrypted on phones. These IDs are deleted after 21 days.
If someone is infected with coronavirus, you can upload the list of anonymized IDs for the past 14 days of contact for contact tracing. It uses signal strength and other data then to work out who needs to be contacted. Although such mobile applications can prove to be extremely useful during a pandemic, they are not effective enough to make a real difference in suppressing the pandemic. A solution that could prove to be more effective would be to introduce a pandemic management system that can help government agencies and health departments in tracking and monitoring the spread of infection. Such a system would make use of digital health cards. These health cards would be assigned to users based on their health status or risk of infection. This status would be determined by the system based on the places visited and the people who have interacted with the user. The health card will indicate the threat level of a user in five different color codes as follows -
- Red - COVID19 Infected Person
- Yellow - Secondary Contact
- Orange - Primary Contact
- Green - Not Infected Yet
- Grey - Recovered Patient
Health authorities will be able to restrict the entry of high-risk patients according to the color code on their digital health card. This will ensure that public spaces remain risk-free from infection. Enforcing social distancing measures and quarantine regulations would become much easier for health authorities with the help of such health cards.
Currently, when a COVID-19 patient has been identified, health authorities manually map their routes. This can often be inaccurate and time-consuming. Being able to automate such a task would make a real difference in containing the virus.
There are two ways for the virus to spread- human to human and human to surface to human. Most contact tracing applications do not consider the second method of transmission. This means that they fail to carry out exposure analysis. Pandemic management systems use exposure analysis to create hot zones. These zones would be high-risk areas of infection. A virtual 500m Geo fence would be set up around such areas. If a user comes near a hot zone, the citizen application of the system would be able to send threat alerts as warnings to the user.
Another reason as to why we require a pandemic management system is that it enables us to self diagnose. Currently, it would be impossible to go to the hospital for a checkup due to the high volume of patients. This system would allow users to perform a primary diagnoses themselves and will subsequently send automatic alerts to the health authorities if there is a high probability of infection.
Government agencies and health workers will also be able to secure contact tracing and route tracking of the users. They will be able to monitor and manage the patients as well. Eventually, lock-downs all over the world will have to be lifted. When that happens, we will need to be prepared with such tools that can help us control the spread of the virus.
Contact tracing applications is one of the governments’ best tool to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
But will that be enough? Read More