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Focus: GS-III Science and Technology

Why in news?

Newspapers and television channels reported that a new strain of H1N1 (also known as swine flu) had started infecting workers and the recommendations of scientists were that it must be controlled with a great deal of urgency as it had the potential of becoming yet another pandemic.

What are the risks from emerging pathogens?

At this stage, potential harm from G4 EA H1N1, the new strain, has just been flagged by scientists who predict risk from emerging pathogens.

said it replicates efficiently in human airway paths and so far, has infected a few people without actually making them ill.

G4 viruses have all the essential hallmarks of a candidate pandemic virus. Of concern is that swine workers show elevated seroprevalence for G4 virus.

Is G4 a current pandemic?

No. The paper has merely forewarned of the possibility that the G4 virus might emerge into a pandemic in the future.

It calls for vigil primarily because this is a new strain against which humans would have no inbuilt immunity from the virus, much like SARS-CoV-2.

What is disease/pandemic risk surveillance?

Most countries have their own disease surveillance mechanisms in place to monitor and track emerging diseases.

Public health teams evaluate the risk of a particular pathogen on the community, based on the cases occurring, and warn of potential risks from that pathogen.

Early warning systems have been successful in predicting dengue and Ebola outbreaks, among other diseases, in the past, enabling health systems to be pre-warned and, thus, prepared to tackle the challenge.

What is the future?

All risk assessment systems across the world will have to be on active mode, besides forming a network globally to share information on emerging diseases and pathogens.

WHO’s Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) is at the front of such initiatives to make scientific predictions based on certain models.

Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN)

  • The Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN) is a network composed of numerous technical and public health institutions, laboratories, NGOs, and other organizations that work to observe and respond to threatening epidemics.
  • GOARN works closely with and under the World Health Organization (WHO), which is one of its most notable partners.
  • Its goals are to: examine and study diseases, evaluate the risks that certain diseases pose, and improve international capability to deal with diseases.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023