A Health Security Index shows Lack of Preparedness EvenThough COVID-19 is Similar to Past Worldwide Pandemics

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically shaken the world, causing millions of infections and thousands of deaths. Since the outbreak, the virus has become the sticking pointin most affected countries putting to test the effectiveness of their health security systems.

The disease was first recognized in the year 2019 within the People’s Republic of China and has since spread and affected most parts of the world. It is characterized by flu-like symptoms, which can worsen, causing a respiratory failure that may result in death.

An infected person can also develop fever, diarrhea, and sore throat, accompanied by severe aches and pains. These symptoms are mild and frequent in common ailments such as Influenza. However, respiratory difficulties are more extreme when it comes to COVID-19.

Coronavirus spreads through aerosol droplets of infected saliva or other bodily fluids. Once you directly contact these infected droplets, primarily through inhalation, then you can get a corona infection.

COVID-19 is tricky because it can stay viable in the environment for several hours, depending on the environmental conditions. You can even contract the disease by just touching a contaminated surface and later touching your face.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has given guidelines for the best process to follow in hospitalizing the COVID-19 patients. Such protocols also cover instructions on how to conduct first aid on COVID-19 victims.

Back in the year 1918, the influenza pandemic affected over a third of the world’s population resulting in over 50 million deaths. A century ago, medical treatments and countermeasures were significantly undeveloped. Any data exchange that could facilitate any public health intervention occurred by telephone, mail, or person-to-person interaction and had a lot of limitations as well.

Now, a hundred years later, the novel coronavirus is the cause of the current global pandemic, which is a threat to millions of lives.

In the present day, many methods of sharing information have been boosted by the massive social media platforms present today, which have implausible speed and flexibility that make it easy to reach anyone, anywhere, and anytime. It is established that more than 2.9 billion folks use social media often, and many use it for long periods.

The novel COVID-19 disease has been spreading in most parts of the world since then, affecting how we conduct normal life activities. It was recognized first in the year 2019, but it came into the limelight in early 2020. Since the virus has no known cure, treating it is rather tricky.

Healthcare professionals are dealing with the disease through treating the symptoms, to help the patient’s immune system fight it. However, this not been easy because of the risk of infection healthcare officials could be facing when handling COVID-19 patients.

Managing the Coronavirus Starts with Proper Planning.

The rate of infection of the corona disease has been on a rapid increase in most countries worldwide. When it comes to managing such a prevalent pandemic, planning and preparedness are the two must-dos.

Countries with proper control and management measures are doing better at time coordinating activities and managing the spread of the coronavirus.

There have been a lot of questions about whether the world was prepared for a crisis like the novel COVID-19 pandemic. The Global Health Security Index states that national health security is fundamentally weak around the world. It says most nations lack proper health and sanitation systems, and no nation is fully prepared to handle such an outbreak.

“It is clear that the global biological risks are, in most instances, growing faster than governments and science can keep up. The international community must work together to ensure all countries are prepared to respond to these risks whenever they occur,” it says.

Two years ago, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) silenced the audience at the World Government Summit with his opinion. He stated that it was likely that a pandemic could start in any of the countries at any time – and that the world would not be ready to deal with it.

With the world now struggling in the hands of coronavirus, it is now evident that we were not ready for a pandemic.

The current coronavirus outbreak is not even near the scale of the situation described by TedrosAdhanomGhebreyesus at the Dubai summit, which showed that over 100 million people would lose their lives to the disease.

This situation raises the big question of whether we are ready for a pandemic as a world. As indicated by the Global Health Security Index, a report from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, and the Economist Intelligence Unit released in October 2019, we are not.

The study which comprised of 195 countries found out that none of the nations are ready to deal with an epidemic or a pandemic that arises spontaneously. It shows that national health security has not been prioritized worldwide.

The report used public information to get each country’s ability to prevent, detect, and respond to a health emergency. An index measured the countries’ capability within a range of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the topmost level of preparedness.

The preparedness of the countries across the world varies from place to place. Here are the outcomes of the scientific study. On the scale, the United States of America is on the top as the “most prepared” nation (scoring 83.5). Next is the United Kingdom (77.9), and then Netherlands (75.6) appeared as the third most prepared nation.

Australia follows in the list (75.5), and then Canada (75.3) behind it. Thailand and South Korea are the only countries that are not from the West butappeared in the top ranks.

Most parts of Europe, Russia, the Middle East, Asia, and Central and South America are described as “more prepared,” scoring between 66 and 34.3. The majority of countries ranked “least prepared” in the report are in Africa. The bottom-most countries are the Equatorial Guinea (16.2) as the last in the list, followed by Somalia (16.6), and then North Korea (17.5) takes the third final position.

China, which is the origin of the current coronavirus disease outbreak, is ranked in 51st place, scoring 48.2, according to the report.

Generally, the international preparedness for a pandemic is very weak. The average index score for the countries that were used is as low as 40.2. This average rises to 51.9 for the high-income earning countries of the world.

The report recommends that governments commit to action towards addressing health security risks, stating that health security is a collective responsibility. Every country’s health security capacity should always be transparently measured, as the international community teams up and works together to confront biological threats, with a focus on financing an emergency response.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Security, the number and diversity of epidemic events have increased over the past 30 years. Such kind of action embraced by the entire world will turn up to be even more essential.

According to experts, the trend is likely to increase. As globalization brings forth snowballing trade, travel, and population growth. As problems such as deforestation and climate change grow, we enter a new era of an increased risk of epidemic events, as stated in the report.

More robust and combined responses to these threats, such as that shown by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, are critical in handling pandemics. It stood up to quickly form partnerships in a bid to find a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, which will be of great importance both now and in the future.

Social Media and Other Online Platforms Are Assisting Combat the Coronavirus.

The so-popular social media platforms should play a vital role in emergency response, resilience, and preparedness, yet its potential hasn’t been fully exploited.

To some people, the idea of using these platforms in emergency cases such as the current COVID-19 global pandemic is a far-fetched strategy.

In light of that, we outline a framework for integrating social media as a reliable tool in handling the current pandemic as well as renovating aspects of readiness and reaction for any future pandemics.

  1. Directing People to Trusted Sources.

To date, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp have been playing a significant role in circulating information since the beginning of the outbreak of coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19).

The World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), several journals, and other health care institutions all over the world are frequently posting guidance and more information on many platforms. Such information helps in ensuring the news reaches as many people as possible.

Worldwide social media platforms have been on their toes with organizations providing people the info updates concerning the COVID-19 pandemic. In some cases, people are taking advantage of our capable technologies and holding meetings online.

For instance, Facebook is using daily news feed function to direct its users to the World Health Organization (WHO) website and other websites of local and international health authorities.

Google Scholar has, on its side, highlighted the currently leading medical journals and other sites. It is essential not to forget that Twitter and other social media sites are in the same manner, directing people in search for coronavirus-related information to reliable resources.

All health care organizations, medical institutions, clinicians, and influential social media users should also join forces to direct online traffic to reliable sources of information.

Such a period would also be the best time for social media platforms to take an active role in public health. They can use various tools such as pop-ups and banners in informing the social media users about the general measures of prevention against the disease. Social media platforms could use a short message like “Sanitize, keep distance, and stay safe.”

Though social sites, that message couldreach millions and millions of people who aren’t able to access the WHO website or any other trusted organization’s website. Reaching out to more people on social media platforms can help create awareness about the pandemic and have a desirable ripple effect on the numbers of infection.

  • Counteracting Misinformation.

Social media has also become an avenue of spreading both rumors and thoughtful misinformation, and many people are using sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and WhatsApp to create a sense of fear and confusion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized that the 2019-nCoV outbreak has come with a lot of new information. Its response has been accompanied by a massive ‘infodemic’— which is an over-abundance of information—some accurate, others not—which makes it hard for people to find reliable sources and trustworthy guidance.

More intense research is required to improve the understanding of the origins and spread of such misinformation as well as coordinate efforts to interrupt its sources and identify, remove, and reduce its dissemination.

  • Social Media as a Diagnostic Tool and Referral System.

Social media platforms should serve as mechanisms that assist in circulating trustworthy information about when and where to get tested, what to do when the results come, and where to get adequate health care. If a vaccine is found, the same social media platforms could be useful in encouraging acceptance and address challenges brought about by vaccine hesitancy.

Such targeted efforts can take place in response to what people are commonly searching for, or even in a further specified approach, according to the individual’s timeline and profile, as well as the prevailing risks.

Using social media to inform people about remotely assessing themselves and taking the appropriate step if they exhibit the signs will also be a great move. It will also reduce the workload to the health care workers, who are testing the people, and taking care of the confirmed sick ones as well.

The Facebook Preventive Health tool, for instance, provides people with scrutinized guidelines about preventive health recommendations such as heart disease and cancer screening and then directs its users to geo-targeted places where these services are available.

The geo-targeted locations would be hospitals, clinics, or any other healthcare institution which is available. Facebook users have the option to share the tool and their organized testing with friends within and beyond the platform.

Such social media platform activities could be improved to direct individuals to resources related to COVID-19 and its testing, when necessary. It should also lead those found infected after the texts to join a health care program, and inform their family and friends about their situation.

  • Enabling Connectivity and Psychological First Aid.

Due to quarantines and telecommuting, there is current social isolation occurring among all the people of the world. In some parts of the United States of America, memorial services, marriage ceremonies, religious meetings, in-restaurant dining, and other areas of traditional interactions have already been strictly limited, while others are entirely restricted.

Some effects of social distancing and isolation will likely affect populations differently a long time, requiring comprehensive approaches in addressing the downstream sequelae. Going through social isolation can and will be challenging for already disadvantaged members of society.

Groups at high risk are the aged people, people in low socioeconomic status and housing insecurity, people dealing with chronic diseases and disabilities, and the undocumented members of the society.

We can also use the social media platforms available to us to share more information about the needs of these groups of people. This technique can help in the development of new strategies through which society can help them.

There are already available functions such as “safety check,” “crisis response,” and many more similar functions. Such functions can be used to frequently allow social media users to check their status and share related information.

It would be essential to deliver psychological first aid via chatbots that use artificial intelligence to receive information from the millions of interactions that will be occurring in response to the pandemic. Even though social media cannot outdo the one on one contact, it will be of great use during this current pandemic when social interactions are limited.

  • Advancing Remote Learning.

New and advanced ways of training and informing our medical personnel are now a necessity. Bans of social gatherings, closure of institutions, and social distancing have affected clinical training and learning.

Remote learning is ensuring the continuity of academic studies. Lessons can still occur online, where the trainees can be trained through video conferencing because more institutions are now moving online.

Students can also take online assessments to gauge how much knowledge they have and even get accreditation of their expertise.

Social media platforms can also be a useful tool for enabling contact among students and supporting active learning. Front-line health care service providers and other health care workers who are dealing with critically ill patients with COVID-19 can also use it to share their experiences, lessons learned, and their fears.

  • Accelerating Research.

Data on signs and symptoms, interactions, photos at events, travel routes, and other digital footprints about human behavior should be collected from the social media accounts and analyzed in real-time to comprehend and model the rate of transmission and route of COVID-19.

At present day, Facebook is giving a combined and anonymized data to investigators about how people move from one place to another and related population density maps to provide a piece of clear information on the spread of the virus.

Amalgamated social media data and the information from electronic medical records about compliant patients could also give insights on an individual-level risk. Both translational and basic sciences can effectively advance through cooperation with social media platforms.

Some foundations have funded researchers to establish the complete genome of the deadly COVID-19 disease in the shortest time possible. The results of such efforts comprise of research tool to further analysis of the genome and a cell atlas that will help in the study of how COVID-19 affects human organs.

Utilizing this infrastructure can be enhanced by linking and promoting communication among scientists. Combing such great minds will make it easier to address critical priorities related to animal and environmental research and candidate therapeutics and vaccine development.

  • Enabling a Culture of Preparedness.

Over 100 years ago, another global pandemic affected more than 500 million people worldwide. Today, a hundred years later and amid another public health disaster, some lessons from history validate the importance of understanding the ways through which information spreads, and how people interact. Incorporating social media in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic is an essential tool in preparation, response, and retrieval of data that can highly be used both now and in the future.

Winding Up

As we have seen, the international preparedness for a pandemic is very weak. The average index score for the countries that were used in the research is as low as 40.2. This average rises to 51.9 for the high-income earning countries of the world. It is essential for the nations of the world to team up and come together in the fight against the current pandemic.

It could be unheard of for the world to prepare for future pandemics in the presence of unfinished battle against one. Governments can then plan for the future after successfully dealing with the current epidemic.

Health security is a collective responsibility, all governments should commit to action towards addressing health security risks.

Every country’s must measure their health security status, and team up with the international community to confront such biological threats.

According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Health Security, the number and diversity of epidemic events have increased over the past 30 years. This kind of action embraced by the entire world will turn up to be even more essential.

According to experts, the trend is expected to increase. As globalization brings forth snowballing trade, travel, and population growth. As problems such as deforestation and climate change increase, we enter a new era in the risk of epidemic events, as stated in the report.

More reliable and combined responses to these threats, such as that shown by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations—when it stood up to quickly form partnerships to formulate a vaccine for the novel coronavirus—are of great importance both now and in the future.