While COVID-19 has been the most reported infectious disease of the past three years, it has not been the most reported disease of the past 20 years. Of course, in the next 10 years, it is possible that Corona 19 will be reported more than the flu (flu), coming first in the ‘most diseases that happened in the last 10 years’.
Then, what was the most reported disease in the last 20 years? According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) report, the most common disease is the flu. It was followed by MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and Ebola. This news was reported by Nature on its news website homepage.
According to the World Health Organization, influenza has caused more cases worldwide than any other infectious disease in the last 23 years. In the United States, tens of thousands of people die each year from the flu. The report also notes that MERS and Ebola follow, with high death rates. However, MERS and Ebola differ in that the outbreak area is concentrated in a specific area. WHO explains that it will be possible to simplify the way medical resources are allocated by studying regional characteristics where disease outbreaks are frequently reported.
Public health authorities around the world use and analyze multiple data to track infectious disease outbreaks. Among them, the most reliable and influential data is the WHO Outbreak News (DON). Research Associate Rebecca Katz and her team at Georgetown University’s Department of Global Health in Washington, DC, compiled 2789 DON reports published between 1996 and 2019 into a searchable database. The database contained metadata extracted from each report, such as the location of the cases, type of disease and length of follow-up.
The researchers tracked the flu, specifically the H5N1 strain, with 776 cases since 1996, making it the most common case of any infectious disease with recorded data. Of course, the main diseases varied from country to country.
China reported 218 cases of influenza out of 262 patients with the disease, while Saudi Arabia reported 179 cases of MERS. This figure reflects the fact that MERS is concentrated in the Middle East. In contrast, the Democratic Republic of Congo reported 105 cases of Ebola and Uganda reported 57 cases of Ebola. Ebola is reported much more frequently than other periodic hemorrhagic fevers in Africa. The mortality rate reaches 60%. Indonesia reported 123 flu cases and Vietnam reported 77 flu cases. The Southeast Asian region is tracked as the most common flu epidemic.
Of course, disease reporting patterns vary from country to country. There is a slight difference between the diseases that are prioritized by national health authorities and the diseases that WHO is concerned about. The disease surveillance infrastructure being built by country also differs. However, it is clear that they read patterns and suggest ways to deal with them.
National infrastructure and the quality of healthcare systems also affect disease reporting. Egypt reported 112 cases of influenza over the 23-year period analyzed. However, no cases have been reported in neighboring Libya. This is due to the lack of money and the instability of the health care system during that period as a result of two civil wars. However, in general, it is possible to ‘estimate’, and based on this, an answer is obtained.
“This analysis suggests that the World Health Organization must take a selective and profligate approach because it cannot track all cases worldwide,” said Timothy Brewer, professor of infectious diseases at UCLA. Mark Smolinsky, president of San Francisco-based nonprofit Ending Pandemics, pointed out that searchable databases can provide verified information about large-scale outbreaks and can be useful tools for documenting the history of epidemics. It is important to have a transparent and complementary system for reporting cases.
Katz argued that WHO should increase transparency on how disease notifications are received, create more specific criteria for including cases, and add information about contextual factors such as climate risks or animal population outbreaks. This will significantly increase and improve the accuracy of DON reporting.
WHO said it is creating a publication detailing the DON report and reorganizing its website to make the report easier to find. WHO has standardized the structure and format of the DON 2021 report.