March 27, 2020


After the devastating Ebola virus outbreak beginning in 2014, several public health experts predicted that a pandemic of some kind lay ahead – it was not a case of if, but when. Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute and professor of Global Health at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, was one of those people. He even taught a course about what it would take to prevent the next major infectious disease outbreak. 

Jha says we have the tools at our disposal to confront and eventually combat the novel coronavirus pandemic - we just need to be willing to work together to use them.

Three Takeaways

  • Jha has faith that the scientific community will pull through and eventually develop treatments and a vaccine for COVID-19.  In the meantime, the physician says there needs to be a huge effort to suppress the virus that leads to the disease, and it needs to include massively ramping up testing capacity and swiftly building up our medical systems in the U.S. There are lessons to learn from the 1918 influenza pandemic too
  • Time is not on our side. There was a delayed response to the new coronavirus because at first China hid information about the outbreak, and many Western European countries and the United States initially downplayed the threat, according to Jha. He’s especially critical of the U.S. government’s inability to secure testing kits at the outset of the crisis.   
  • We may be facing an age of pandemics. Because of our highly interconnected world, we should expect more major outbreaks in the years ahead, Jha says. Factors such as globalization, climate change and other environmental changes - including humans increasingly encroaching into animal habitats and vice versa – are some of the reasons for the problem. It’s become easier for diseases to jump from animals to humans.

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