The disease outbreaks declared as Public Health Emergencies of International Concern (PHEIC) by WHO are:
– H1N1 Influenza (2009) – Swine flu pandemic.
– Poliovirus (2014) – Resurgence in some previously polio-free countries.
– Ebola in West Africa (2014) – The largest Ebola outbreak in history.
– Zika virus (2016) – Linked to birth defects.
– Ebola in Kivu (2019) – The second-largest Ebola outbreak.
– COVID-19 (2020) – Ongoing global pandemic.
– Monkeypox (2022) – Multi-country outbreak.
These outbreaks are designated as PHEICs because they can spread rapidly across borders and require a coordinated international response due to their high potential for causing death, significant illness, and disruption.
In terms of potential future threats, an Influenza virus variant of concern (potentially a new combination of Hemagglutinin (H) and Neuraminidase (N) subtypes) could be a significant candidate for a PHEIC declaration. Influenza viruses are particularly concerning because of their potential for mutation and reassortment, which could lead to the emergence of a highly transmissible and virulent strain. Airborne viruses like influenza are challenging to control because they spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, and they can also persist on surfaces. This transmission mode is less containable than direct skin contact or foodborne routes, which can often be managed with more straightforward public health interventions like handwashing, isolation, or food safety practices.