“Today’s highly mobile, interdependent and interconnected world provides myriad opportunities for the rapid spread of infectious diseases, and radio-nuclear and toxic threats … Infectious diseases are now spreading geographically much faster than at any time in history. It is estimated that 2.1 billion airline passengers travelled in 2006; an outbreak or epidemic in any one part of the world is only a few hours away from becoming an imminent threat somewhere else … Since the 1970s, newly emerging diseases have been identified at the unprecedented rate of one or more per year. There are now nearly 40 diseases that were unknown a generation ago.”
Some of these diseases are prone to becoming epidemic or pandemic, and would pose a risk to future generations. In the response to infectious diseases, both old ones and new emerging ones, one crucial aspect is having effective anti-microbial treatments, such as antibiotics and anti-viral medicines. The Welsh Antimicrobial Resistance Delivery Plan (April 2016) states that[ii] : “Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is one of the greatest health threats to humans and animals. The problem has been building over decades so that today many common and life-threatening infections are becoming difficult – or even impossible – to treat”
Although these threats are likely to originate elsewhere, the response to an epidemic or pandemic relies on rapid assessment and response to limit local spread. Multi agency emergency response systems are in place and regularly tested and updated by all organisations likely to be involved. However, in a serious epidemic or pandemic situation, all organisations should have plans in place for business continuity when many of their staff and service users are likely to be affected. A failure to develop and test plans could lead to a greater mortality and distress, and have a wide ranging impact on many other vital services on which people depend.