Why It Matters: The Pandemic Threat

Global Health Threats
  • Infectious disease outbreaks
    (like influenza or Ebola viruses)
  • Chronic illnesses
    (like heart disease, cancer, or diabetes)
  • Environmental disasters
    (like hurricanes, mudslides, or earthquakes)
  • Humanitarian emergencies
    (like war or famine)
  • Biological or chemical terrorism

While we can’t predict exactly when or where the next epidemic or pandemic will begin, we know one is coming. Global health security is how we stop outbreaks from becoming widespread pandemics that threaten us all.

36 Hours: U.S. National Security at Risk

Outbreaks take hold in the world’s most vulnerable areas – countries with few resources to stem the tide of infection before it reaches our shores. When a pathogen can travel from a remote village to major cities on all continents in 36 hours, the threat to our national security is greater than ever.

Why are we at risk from local outbreaks turning into global pandemics?

Many challenges exist worldwide that increase the risk that outbreaks will occur and spread rapidly, including:

  • Increased risk of infectious pathogens “spilling over” from animals to humans
  • Development of antimicrobial resistance
  • Spread of infectious diseases through global travel and trade
  • Acts of bioterrorism
  • Weak public health infrastructures
3 Ways Global Outbreaks Impact the U.S. Economy

A global infectious disease outbreak can have a catastrophic impact on the U.S. economy – even if the disease never reaches the U.S.

JOBS: In 2015, the U.S. exported over $300 billion in material goods and services to 49 health security priority countries. These exports supported over 1.6 million jobs across America in sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, and natural resource extraction.

TRAVEL AND TRADE: Fear of contagion can impact travel, tourism, and imports, especially if cases occur in the United States, as they did for the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak.

COST: Estimates show that pandemics are likely to cost over $6 trillion in the next century, with an annualized expected loss of more than $60 billion for potential pandemics. However, investing $4.5 billion per year in building global capacities could avert these catastrophic costs.

How do we stop potential pandemics from spreading?

Our global health security work focuses on building public health systems that work hand-in-hand to help countries detect and contain public health threats.

  • Surveillance systems to rapidly detect and report cases
  • Laboratory networks to accurately identify the cause of illness
  • A trained workforce to identify, track, and contain outbreaks
  • Emergency management systems to coordinate an effective response


Did You Know?

In 2017, stronger public health systems meant faster, smarter response to contain potential pandemics and threats of international importance in our partner countries:

  • January 2017: Uganda’s EOC responds to first cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the country
  • February 2017: Guinea’s EOC coordinates rapid response to a measles outbreak
  • March 2017: Cameroon’s EOC responds in record time of under 24 hours to contain a meningitis outbreak
  • April 2017: Liberia’s new EOC and FETP respond to a deadly meningococcal disease outbreak
  • May 2017: Democratic Republic of Congo’s FETP-trained disease detectives help rapidly contain Ebola
  • June 2017: Nigeria’s EOC helps contain a widespread meningitis outbreak
  • July 2017: Guatemala’s hospital surveillance systems identify two outbreaks of Dengue
  • August 2017: Kenya’s new mobile surveillance system detects an anthrax outbreak
  • September 2017: Georgia’s FETP-trained disease detectives help contain a measles outbreak
  • October 2017: Kenya’s IMPACT fellows respond to an outbreak of cholera
  • November 2017: Uganda’s EOC coordinates rapid response to a deadly Marburg virus outbreak
  • December 2017: Bangladesh’s FETP-trained disease detectives respond to a diphtheria outbreak