News & Opinion | June 18, 2018 5:00 am

Is America Prepared for the Next Pandemic?

Recent mass outbreaks have caught the world off-guard—but the worst is yet to come.

pandemic
A lab technician works in the P3, the Pasteur Institute's laboratory dedicated to the Ebola virus, in Bangui on May 31, 2018. (FLORENT VERGNES/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

A new infectious disease has emerged, on average, every year for the past 30 years, including MERS, Nipah, Hendra, and many more. Researchers think that birds and mammals probably harbor anywhere from 631,000 to 827,000 unknown viruses that could potentially leap to humans. And though scientists are working for ways to identify them all and scan for them in places where they are likely to come in contact with humans, we will likely never be able to predict which will cross over to our species next, writes The Atlantic. Take Zika, which was discovered in 1947, but suddenly developed into an unforeseen epidemic during the past few years.

Despite advances with antibiotics and vaccines, humans are still battling the same viruses and other pathogens that we’ve been dealing with since the beginning of our history. And it is only going to get worse. The number of outbreaks per decade has more than tripled since the 1980s. Is America prepared for the next pandemic? In some ways, yes, in other more ominous ways, the answer is no, according to The Atlantic.