A new statistical study has highlighted that large pandemics with a similar impact to Covid are much more common than you might expect. In fact, according to this recent research, there is a 2% probability that a pandemic with similar characteristics could occur each year.
The study, published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences ( PNAS ) and developed by scientists at Duke University (USA), has analyzed disease outbreaks over the past 400 years to estimate the intensity of these events. and the annual probability of their recurrence.
“The most important conclusion is that major pandemics such as Covid-19 or the Spanish flu are relatively likely , ” it said in a statement the researcher William Pan, a professor of environmental health at Duke University and co – author of the study.
According to this research, he points out, the probability that there is a pandemic like Covid is approximately 2% each year , which means that “someone born in 2000 would have approximately a 38% probability of experiencing one.” Those odds, according to the authors, appear to get worse over time.
To reach these conclusions, the team of researchers examined the historical record of epidemics from 1600 to the present. Of the 476 documented epidemics, about half had a known number of victims, that is, about 145 epidemics caused fewer than 10,000 deaths, while another 114 are known to exist, but the number of fatalities is unknown.
Among the main epidemics they analyzed are the different outbreaks of plague or cholera that have occurred over the last 350 years, and outbreaks of currently active diseases such as HIV, malaria or Covid were excluded.
“The slow decrease in probability with the intensity of the epidemic implies that extreme epidemics are relatively probable, ” the researchers point out in the article. This probability is not constant, but it is growing, they point out.
“Together with recent estimates of increasing rates of disease occurrence in animal reservoirs associated with environmental change, this finding suggests a high probability of observing pandemics similar to Covid-19 that could double in the coming decades, ” indicate the researchers.
“This points to the importance of an early response to disease outbreaks and the ability to create a global and local pandemic surveillance network , as well as set a research agenda to understand why these large outbreaks are becoming more common. common “, concludes Pan.