- Dr. Anthony Fauci said in June 2019 that his nightmarish public health scenario was “a respiratory disease that spreads easily and has a high level of morbidity and some degree of mortality”.
- Less than six months later, the new coronavirus appeared on the radars of epidemiologists in Wuhan, China.
- Now, Fauci says he is “so sorry” that he was “so prescient.”
- Better public health surveillance systems in the United States would go a long way to curbing the next epidemic of infectious disease.
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Dr. Anthony Fauci has arguably been the best infectious disease specialist in America for 36 years. That’s how long he heads the American National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
It is therefore not surprising that he has been saying for a while now that the prospect of a new contagious infectious disease like the new coronavirus is one of the things that worries him most.
Just take what he said to The Hill’s Editor at Large Steve Clemons in June 2019 during the publication’s first “Future of Healthcare Summit” when he was asked about his nightmare public health scenarios.
“As an infectious disease public health official – I mean, there are many other things in society that worry me, but you don’t want my opinion on this, let’s talk about infectious diseases – is a rapidly spreading respiratory disease, this is new, mainly, there is no background immunity in the population, and this almost always turns out to be a whole new flu pandemic, “said Fauci .
“I worry about this because when you have a respiratory disease that spreads easily, and has a high level of morbidity and some degree of mortality, you could have a public health disaster. ”
It’s a precise prediction (apart from the flu part), but Fauci still feels bad about how right he was.
“I’m really sorry I was so prescient in our last interview, Steve, I’m really sorry,” said Fauci at this year’s edition of The Hill’s health care summit on Thursday. “When we had our conversation last year, I said that was what would worry me most. I am very sorry that this happened and happened so quickly after this interview. ”
Fauci is not the only one to have raised this kind of alarm. Bill Gates has similarly said that the world must prepare for pandemic epidemics in the same serious way that armies prepare for war. Yet the United States has reduced its public health pandemic response capacity at all levels over the past decade.
“Even if we are going through this and there will be many, many lessons learned, we must for the future, make sure that we do not lose this corporate memory of what we are going through, because we need, obviously, to be better prepared, “said Fauci.
The best way to better prepare for the next pandemic is to take a pragmatic and systematic approach, as emphasized by Fauci.
“You don’t want to scare society, and say” at some point, something will come and destroy society “because when you hear that over and over again … people get used to it and they say” well, you’re just trying to scare us, ”said Fauci last year. “The way you prepare for an epidemic is to preemptively build the science and public health capacity to respond.” Do not try to guess what is the next epidemic, because you will almost always be wrong, try to put a basic system element in place of surveillance. ”
Many experts point out that a well-coordinated disease surveillance system is exactly what is still lacking in the United States, and it is one of the main reasons why this pandemic hit the country so hard.