Updated: Jul 3
Author: Daniel Zhou
Editors: Angela Pan, Hwi-On Lee, and Shirley Chen
Artist: Jade Li
Epidemics can be some of the most devastating events to happen in history. The CDC describes an epidemic as a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease. They are health-related behavior diseases with higher than predicted occurrence rates.
Epidemics start through the increase in the amount of virulence of an agent, which occurs because of an unfamiliar enhanced mode of transmission, increased exposure to susceptible persons, increased host exposure or new portals of entry, and/or a change according to the host’s response to the agent. There are many ways for governments and establishments to prevent an epidemic. According to Prevent Epidemics, there is a core system for preparing against an epidemic.
First, a country should have a natural laboratory system to test diseased specimens and confirm outbreaks. Second, there should be real-time surveillance to find disease outbreaks efficiently. Third, a capable workforce should be assembled to find, stop, and prevent outbreaks/epidemics. Fourth, there should be preparation planning and risk assessment for epidemics. Fifth, an emergency system must be present to prevent outbreaks. Sixth, there should be a system to exchange information between experts and the public effectively to better control epidemics. Lastly, a country should have legislation, policy, and financing in place to support overall preparedness for the prevention and control of epidemics.
The WHO Managing Epidemics Handbook describes 3 focuses on managing epidemics. The first focus is on community engagement during epidemics. This is because not everyone will trust health advice from professionals. With community engagement, countries can help spread vital information to help protect the well-being of the public. The second focus is risk communication, which is one of the pillars of response to epidemics. Risk communication refers to the real-time exchange of information, advice, and opinions between health officials. To mitigate the effects of a disease outbreak, the ultimate goal of risk communication is to help those at risk of infection take protective and preventive action. Finally, treating patients and protecting the health workforce is crucial to prevent and control epidemics.
Needless to say, these are steps governments should take to help prevent outbreaks. But what can you do? Though it may not seem like it, individuals have an important role in preventing outbreaks. To help prevent the catching and spreading of disease, standard steps to sanitation are important. These include washing your hands often with soap and water, avoiding touching your face with unsanitized hands, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing, avoiding crowded places, and disinfecting your home regularly. In addition, practicing safe sex (also to protect against STIs), preparing food safely, and using properly fitted masks and other protective shields when you’re outside can help reduce the chance of catching diseases that spread via human contact.
In spite of how alarming certain epidemics may be, there are many ways governments and individuals can help control and prevent epidemics. Of the 7 core systems for preparedness, 3 focus on the WHO, and taking individual precautions can help everyone make educated and safe decisions on epidemic prevention and control.
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