WHO (World Health Organization)

The World Health Organization has several initiatives to control outbreaks. Overall, the WHO is a major player on an international level. They try to anticipate epidemics. The WHO has brought experts from all over the globe to evaluate current practices of disease outbreaks. The goal of anticipating outbreaks is to “identify approaches to improve detection, early analysis and interpretation of factors that drive emergence and amplification of emerging disease epidemics” (WHO, Anticipating Epidemics). Also, the WHO has set up laboratories with experts in human and veterinary sciences in order to understand diseases. The Emerging and Dangerous Pathogens Laboratory Network (EDPLN) has a vast network of human and veterinary laboratories that are stationed throughout the world. The goal of the EDPLN is to “provide the strategies, tools, and practices of rapid detection and containment of outbreaks of novel, emerging and dangerous pathogens in order to minimize their impact on public health, health systems and economies of affected areas” (WHO, EDPLN). The WHO also looks at ethical approaches during an outbreak. Ethics are important during an outbreak because moral dilemmas can be common during disease outbreaks. Ethics can be common when planning, preparing, and responding to epidemics. One ethical dilemma is the use of experimental treatments, another could be priority of people in an outbreak. Who should be treated first? What should be done in the case of healthcare shortages (i.e. workers, medicine, or spaces available for the sick)? How should there be a balance of freedom and the possibility of reducing disease?

Some of the initiatives the WHO has in place are specific to certain conditions, like location. One example of this is when the WHO tries to help countries with disease infection during humanitarian crises. Humanitarian crises can include internal conflicts, food insecurity, and natural or manmade disasters. The goal of reducing infectious disease spread is to reduce the morbidity and mortality for individuals already suffering from a humanitarian crisis. The WHO does this by contributing to field epidemiology, producing publications, and training individuals to respond in the case of a disease outbreak (WHO, 2012). Another area the WHO focuses on is infectious disease control in the healthcare setting. There is a great need for controlling disease infection rates in healthcare settings. Without strategies in place, this can cause the areas of refuge, like hospitals, to become incubators for disease transmission. Instead of helping to alleviate the severity of disease, healthcare settings could actually make disease outbreaks worse (WHO, Infection Prevention & Control in Health Care).

Other initiatives might focus on specific diseases. A good example of this is influenza initiatives. There is a Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) conducted by WHO. This surveillance system monitors influenza viruses and gives recommendations for vaccines, risk assessment, diagnostic testing, and susceptibility. The GISRS is located in 114 countries (WHO, GISRS). The GISRS is very important for influenza outbreaks. They use evidence-based approaches in order to make important decisions for public health in the realm of influenza viruses.