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COVID-19: a wakeup call?

It appears the world was unprepared for a novel coronavirus, despite historical precedents. Dave Elder provides some insight on the disease and what the pharmaceutical community is doing to tackle the pandemic.

COVID-19

GLOBALISATION inevitably leads to more rapid spread of disease, which will in turn facilitate global pandemics.1 Infectious diseases have always followed the main global trading networks. The Black Death was disseminated by European merchant traders throughout the 17th century and global conflict and the rapid movement of many thousands of soldiers contributed to the last great pandemic, Spanish influenza, in 1918/1919.2 In recent times, air travel has been responsible for the rapid spread of several strains of avian flu.3

More recently, there have been global epidemics caused by corona viruses – ie, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. Woolhouse4 highlighted that there may be significant underreporting of these emerging global infectious diseases from other less developed regions in the world. Many emerging pathogenic organisms have a wide range of potential hosts, including mammals and birds. Research indicates that MERS-CoV, SARS-CoV, as well as the newly emerging SARS-CoV-2, all originated in bats.5 There are calls for international capability to detect, identify and monitor these newly emerging pathogens, targeting those global regions that most require it.4

However, despite these historical precedents, the global community was still totally unprepared for a novel corona virus (SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19) originating in China. As of 30 March 2020, there have been 715,660 reported cases of this disease and 33,579 deaths and the centre of the pandemic has now shifted from China to Europe.6 In addition to the impact of the disease itself, there are significant concerns that the global economy is now entering an international recession because of drastic containment measures introduced to stem the spread of the disease.7











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