Probably, We’ll See Another Big One

Heavy-hitter pandemics like COVID-19 are more likely than we might think, according to a Proceedings of the National Academy of Science study published yesterday.
Duke University scientists analyzed “a murderer’s row of pathogens” from past outbreaks including plague, smallpox, cholera, and novel influenza viruses and identified patterns to inform the probabilities of similar-scale events recurring, a Duke Global Health Institute news release explains. 

The research, led by Marco Marani, PhD of Italy’s University of Padua, employed a method of statistical modeling used to estimate the risk of extreme climate events,according to Gizmodo.
The findings suggest: 

  • A pandemic as deadly as COVID-19 (death toll so far: ~4.4 million) within the next 6 decades
  • A pandemic on the scale of the 1918 Spanish flu (which killed ~50 million) every 400 years
  • An increase in the annual probability of these extreme events over time—since emerging and re-emerging diseases have grown more common in recent decades.

The research isn’t trying to make predictions or explain disease drivers. However, “understanding that pandemics aren’t so rare should raise the priority of efforts to prevent and control them in the future,” says co-author William Pan

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