Consuls need pandemic plan – expert

The world needs to prepare better for pandemic flu, a top global health expert urged at a Consular Corps meeting.

Professor Peter Piot, who discovered the Ebola virus, said: “In today’s world, with the mobility of people, there are no longer local epidemics. What is local becomes global very quickly. We need early local warning systems so that we can offer international support and notify neighbours.”

Piot, a former Under Secretary General of the UN and Executive Director of UNAIDS, was critical of the World Health Organisation’s slow response to the Ebola outbreak.

“The WHO needs to take a cold hard look at its performance,” said Piot, who has called for the WHO to establish an independent committee, with its own budget, to review epidemics.

Urging better “global health governance” Piot welcomed the establishment of the African Centre for Disease Control in the wake of the Ebola outbreak. With the risk of bio-terrorism and a flu pandemic, global health is also high on Germany’s G7 Agenda.

As an adviser to the German government, Piot has recommended a “realistic funding mechanism” to develop vaccines where there is no market or public health incentive.

Turning to consuls, who will have to assist nationals in during a pandemic, Piot said: “Each country should have a clear set of rules. Most importantly, consuls should keep their citizens calm.” He advised against the closing of borders: “We need to protect the countries outside the pandemic but closing borders does not work. But screening people for fever when they board a plane is advisable.”

Professor Peter Piot