As the world continues to become more interconnected through increased international travel and the continued movement of goods, the opportunities for global pandemics increase. In order to manage infectious disease out-breaks, global communication and coordination are critical. Formed in 1947, the World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations, focused on health. The WHO operates at an international level to track and respond to infectious diseases.
The Global Outbreak Alert Response Network, coordinated by the WHO, was formed in 2000 to more effectively mobilize experts from around the world in response to international outbreaks. This network, which consists of technical institutions, universities, international health organizations, and research institutes, reflects the globally coordinated approach that has become increasingly necessary as we face the emergence of new pathogens, such as SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), and an increased risk of bioterrorism as viruses become easier to create in the lab.
While science fights the diseases, war, famine and migration continue to make the control of outbreaks extremely difficult. As with the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, fighting the disease and treating patients is not the only battle. Responses also require socio-political solutions, working with global, state and local organizations to contain the next pandemic.