How To Prevent And Control Epidemics

Understanding the principles of epidemic preparedness.
Monday 2 March 2020
COVID-19: principles on epidemic preparedness and response. Photo: iStock

At the height of uncertainty, and as we wait to observe the fate of this epidemic that is the ongoing COVID-19, it is worth remembering that we have been here before. Cases in point: the bubonic plague, smallpox, and influenza are several of the most notable and brutal killers in human history.

COVID-19 provides useful insight – and serves as a reminder – on what has to be done to prevent future outbreaks. Here are four public health principles on epidemic preparedness and response – for governments, healthcare providers, and the public – to act on now.

Practising early detection.

Experts have warned of coronavirus spreading undetected in Indonesia and Thailand; however, early detection allows the rapid implementation of containment measures which are key to reducing the risk of amplification and further international spread.

Strengthening health systems.

Epidemics and pandemics put health systems and the health workforce under great pressure and stress, stretching the system’s capacity and resources. Implementing infection prevention and control measures through triage, isolation and protecting the health workforce can be very significant.

Enforcing risk communication.

This is particularly important in a rapidly evolving situation where there are many unknowns, giving room for rumours to develop. It is critical to minimise the social, political and subsequent economic impact.

Addressing the modes of transmission.

The COVID-19 modes of transmission have been identified to be similar to that of SARS and MERS – through droplet spread, direct contact, and fomites (objects contaminated with, or exposed to the infectious agent). Thus, hand hygiene, respiratory and cough hygiene must be strictly observed by all.

This article is an excerpt from UNRESERVED’s March 2020 issue from the article Rumours + Realities.