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Title: Diseases Without Borders International Pandemic Preparedness in the 21st Century It’s all true, and even worse
Authors: Gelb, Elizabeth
Advisors: Mahmoud, Adel
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: At the present time, one of the top threats to national and international security is a pandemic, the outbreak of an infectious disease that crosses international borders. Pandemics are unique because containment and control require international coordination and collaboration. Besides the obvious threat to human health, pandemics can also cause severe economic, political, and social damage. It is therefore in nations’, and the entire world’s, best interest to limit the threat of these international outbreaks as much as possible. With increased globalization, people and goods can traverse the globe within hours bringing along foreign pathogens that are capable of igniting a pandemic. Since the turn of the 21st century a little over a decade ago, we have already dealt with at least three pandemics: SARS (2003), H1N1 (2009), and Ebola (2014). We were extremely lucky with SARS and H1N1, but the Ebola pandemic has further highlighted the weaknesses of our current system. The problem is, despite our improved understanding of science, we still experience disastrous pandemics. The purpose of this thesis is to determine if we are ready for the next pandemic. In order to answer this question, the paper explores the control measures already in place and their effectiveness in responding to the pandemics of the 21st century. The main findings of this thesis conclude that no, we are not ready for the next pandemic. We have the World Health Organization (WHO), the universal UN authority on global health issues, which coordinates the international response to pandemics. We also have the International Health Regulations (IHR), recently reformed in 2005, that is the only binding international agreement for disease control. The IHR (2005) set standards and requirements for national healthcare systems and establish procedures in the case of international public health emergencies. However, even with the WHO and the reformed IHR (2005), we are still not ready. The three 21st century pandemic case studies have exposed the weaknesses of the WHO and IHR (2005) and have highlighted the need for reform. The 2014 Ebola pandemic hit two years after the implementation deadline for the revised IHR (2005), but at the time of the outbreak, over 80% of WHO Member States still had not met the agreement requirements. Member State core capacities for surveillance and response were grossly subpar and there were still severe transparency and informationsharing issues. The three pandemic case studies also revealed the lack, yet necessity, of IHR (2005) enforcement capability. Diseases will always plague humans. It’s natural. We have to just be able to minimize the consequences of disease outbreaks as much as possible. In order to control pandemics, we have to have a framework that is implementable. Since we don’t know when or where the next pandemic will break out, we should therefore strengthen our ability to detect threats early and respond immediately. This involves strengthening surveillance systems and removing any political and logistical barriers to rapid response efforts.
Extent: 124 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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