The World Health Organization (WHO) have released a list of the dangers they believe to be the biggest threats to health in 2019. On there are many of the usual suspects, including Ebola, which saw several outbreaks in 2018, and dengue, which infects around 390 million people a year.
Joining these hard-to-tackle threats this year are entirely preventable ones. Yes, the WHO have decided to add anti-vaxxers to the list of the biggest threats to world health.
Measles has seen a resurgence, with a global increase of 30 percent despite vaccines to prevent measles being introduced in 1963, and the vaccine only being improved since then. An outbreak in Europe affected more than 41,000 people in 2018, up from just over 5,000 in 2016.
Rather than list the diseases themselves as threats to the world’s health, the WHO have added the ridiculous anti-vaccine movement itself as a threat.
“Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases,” they write in their release. “Some countries that were close to eliminating [diseases] have seen a resurgence.
“Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.”
As well as anti-vaxxers, the WHO outlined these nine other threats to world health that they will try to tackle in 2019:
Air pollution and climate change
The WHO list air pollution as the greatest environmental risk to health. Nine out of 10 people worldwide breathe polluted air every day, with around 7 million people dying prematurely every year as a result.
Chronic, non-transmittable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes are the leading cause of mortality, causing 70 percent of deaths worldwide. Of the 41 million people a year who die due to non-communicable diseases, 15 million people die prematurely (aged between 30 and 69).
The WHO say that a rise in these diseases has been driven by the use of alcohol and tobacco, unhealthy diets and inactivity, and air pollution.
Global influenza pandemic*
“The world will face another influenza pandemic – the only thing we don’t know is when it will hit and how severe it will be,” the WHO write about one of the most unpredictable threats on the list.
“Global defences are only as effective as the weakest link in any country’s health emergency preparedness and response system.”
An estimated 6.2 to 7.3 million people in the US have gotten sick from the flu during the 2018/19 flu season so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
*Before you all nitpick and say that all pandemics are global, this is the way it was described by the World Health Organization and who are we to argue with the WHO?