GPHIN works by monitoring global Internet traffic and other forms of communications for talk of illness or other threats to public health in local populations. Much as terrorists are tracked by their web chatter, the beginnings of deadly diseases are discovered through similar surveillance techniques. GPHIN has several times saved the planet from pandemics through early detection and early response to disease outbreaks. In 2003 it was GPHIN that stopped SARS from becoming a global pandemic. In 2010 GPHIN prevented a global outbreak of bird flu with origins in Iran.
GPHIN detected these early outbreaks months ahead of the World Health Organization, which bases detection upon a much slower channel of official government-to-government communications. This is in accordance to Dr. Larry Brilliant, a leading epidemiologist. Just as every second counts in fighting fires, every day counts in fighting infectious diseases.
GPHIN was organized by the Public Health Agency of Canada under the leadership of Ron St. John.
Link to GPHIN website:
Attached is a TED.com lecture on epidemics by Dr. Larry Brilliant.
In 1980 the world saw the eradication of smallpox, a disease that had killed 500 million people. As of today polio is nearly extinguished across the whole planet. The World Health Organization has been the lead player in this eradication. Other groups included in the eradication efforts include UNICEF and Rotary International. To date there have been 60 cases of polio in the world in 2012 as reported through May 23. This shows how close we are to the finish line. For comparison, there were an estimated 350,000 cases in 1988.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warns of global polio threat: “Wild viruses and wildfires have two things in common. If neglected, they can spread out of control. If handled properly, they can be stamped out for good. Today, the flame of polio is near extinction — but sparks in three countries threaten to ignite a global blaze. Now is the moment to act.” Read full opinion piece at:
If we do not stop polio today we could see a resurgence. By the year 2030 we could have 300,000 new cases each year. Or, we could stop polio today. It is our choice.
There are currently three hot spots in the war on polio, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. With only a little more perseverance this disease can be eradicated in the next few years.
There has already been a partial victory in this fight. One of the three strains of polio virus has already been eradicated; one down two to go.
Polio has been known since ancient times, but it reached pandemic status in the first half of the Twentieth Century. In 1952 in the United States the epidemic became the worst outbreak in the nation’s history. It infected 58,000 people, 3,000 of whom died and 21,000 were left with various degrees of paralysis.
It was eliminated in developing countries in 1980, due in large part to vaccine developed by Dr. Jonas Salk.