A new independent report compiled at the request of the United Nations secretary-general warns that there is a “very real threat” of a pandemic sweeping the planet, killing up to 80 million people. A deadly pathogen, spread airborne around the world, the report says, could wipe out almost 5 percent of the global economy. And we’re not ready. Laura Garrett writes that twenty-five years ago, in 1994, she published her book on the subject, The Coming Plague: Newly Emerging Diseases in a World Out of Balance, arguing that human disruption of the global environment, coupled with behaviors that readily spread microbes between people and from animals to humans, guaranteed a global surge in epidemics, even an enormous pandemic. She writes that epidemic outbreaks were aided and abetted by inept health systems, human behavior, and the complete lack of consistent political and financial support for disease-fighting preparedness everywhere in the world. Will the UN report’s warning be heeded now?
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