As the current hardships imposed by the pandemic continues, researchers have warned that the world is likely to witness another pandemic similar to COVID within the next 60 years. According to a report published by Duke Global Health Institute, the probability of a pandemic with a similar impact to COVID is about 2 per cent in any year. The researchers have used a newly assembled record of past outbreaks to estimate the intensity of those events and the yearly probability of them recurring.
The study named 'Intensity and frequency of extreme novel epidemics' has been published in the 'Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences'. According to researchers, the chance of a pandemic with similar effects to COVID is roughly 2 per cent in any year, which means that someone born in the year 2000 has a 38 per cent chance of experiencing one by today. In the press release, the researchers highlighted that the likelihood of a pandemic is only increasing and also highlighted the need to change people's perceptions of pandemic risks and expectations for preparedness. For the study, the researchers analysed the data of 400 years.
The researchers found that while the COVID pandemic may be the deadliest virus outbreak since the Spanish Flu but warned that the chances are it will not be the last. The team of researchers analysed the Spanish flu, the deadliest pandemic in modern history, which killed around 30 million people between 1918 and 1920. These figures suggest that it is statistically likely that a pandemic of such an extreme scale would occur within the next 400 years. But, the study estimates that the probability of novel disease outbreaks will likely grow three-fold in the next few decades. The researchers estimate that a pandemic similar in scale to COVID is likely within 59 years. Gabriel Katul, Ph.D., the Theodore S. Coile Distinguished Professor of Hydrology and Micrometeorology at Duke Global Health Institute and co-author of the paper in the press release mentioned they cannot suggest that they will be safe from a COVID like pandemic for another 59 years, or from a disaster like that of Spanish flu for another 300 years.
“When a 100-year flood occurs today, one may erroneously presume that one can afford to wait another 100 years before experiencing another such event,” Katul said in the press release.
"This impression is false. One can get another 100-year flood the next year", Katul added.
For the study, the researchers used new statistical methods to measure the scale and frequency of outbreaks over the past four centuries. In addition, the researchers included a range of deadly pathogens including plague, smallpox, cholera, typhus, and novel influenza viruses. They also identified patterns that allowed them to describe the probabilities of similar-scale events happening again. William Pan, PhD, associate professor of global environmental health at Duke and one of the paper’s co-authors in the press release informed that "pandemics like COVID and the Spanish flu are relatively likely" and the pandemics are not so rare and it should become a priority for health workers to take control of them in the future.