NO country is fully prepared for the next deadly pandemic that threatens to sweep the globe - killing millions.
A new report published today suggests most of the world would struggle to deal with a major outbreak of an infectious disease, like Ebola.
Just 13 countries out of nearly 200 were ranked in the top tier - which included the UK, US, Australia and Canada.
But given how fast the next pandemic is likely to spread, experts warn even these countries maybe powerless to stop the onslaught.
They said with air travel, an outbreak in one country could spread across the world in a matter of hours.
While the UK is deemed among the most prepared, most of our European neighbours, including Spain, Germany, Austria, Italy and Norway are classified in the 'more prepared' category.
Vast swathes of the African map are a glaring red, noting them as the 'least prepared' nations.
Disease X is 'on the horizon'
The Global Health Security (GHS) index was compiled by scientists at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, and the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).
It marks the first comprehensive assessment of epidemic and pandemic threats across the world.
It comes as a panel led by the ex-chief of the World Health Organisation, last month, released a stark report warning a lethal respiratory pathogen could kill between 50 and 80 million people.
Hot on its heels was another report by the Coalition of Epidemic Prepardness Innovations (CEPI) which warned the so-called Disease X is "on the horizon".
Richard Hatchett, CEO of the CEPI, warned: "We can be sure that another epidemic is on the horizon.
"It is not a case of if, but when."
'Threat anywhere is threat everywhere'
Now, the new GHS, warns "a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere".
Using 140 detailed questions, scientists assessed each country's ability to prevent, detect and respond to health emergencies.
It also rates how effective a country's health system is, and their commitment to global norms, as well as the political, socioeconomic and environmental risk factors that can limit response.
The average overall index score was just over 40 out of a possible 100, "pointing to substantial weaknesses in preparedness", the experts warn.
Even among the 60 high-income countries assessed, the average score is barely over 50, they noted.
MOST PREPARED NATIONS ACROSS THE WORLD
The 13 countries rated in the top tier are:
- South Korea
Rise in epidemics
The report is timely given a rise in the frequency of epidemics in recent years.
The 2013-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa killed more than 11,000 people.
Meanwhile, the latest outbreak of the highly contagious disease, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, has killed another 2,100 in 2018-19, according to the WHO.
These emergencies and others, including the Zika epidemic in 2015-16, highlight the need to understand how countries can better prepare to face these threats.
The scientists said: "The Index, which serves as a barometer for global preparedness, is based on a central tenet: a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere.
"Deadly infectious diseases can travel quickly; increased global mobility through air travel means that a disease outbreak in one country can spread across the world in a matter of hours."
Gaps in global system
Leo Abruzzese, senior global advisor at The Economist Intelligence Unit, who helped compile the report, said the report helped to identify important gaps in global preparedness.
"Without a way of identifying gaps in the system, we're much more vulnerable than we need to be," he said.
"The index is specific enough to provide a roadmap for how countries can respond, and gives donors and funders a tool for directing their resources."
Other key findings include:
- Stronger health security conditions are not dependent on whether a country is wealthy
- More than 100 high and middle income countries scored below 50 on the index
- Even when emergency plans are in place, there's little evidence that countries have tested these capabilities to show they would function in a crisis
- 85 per cent of countries haven't completed a simulation exercise with the WHO in the last year
- Fewer than 5 per cent of countries have a national requirement to test their emergency plans on an annual basis
- More than half of countries face major political and security risks that could undermine their ability to respond
- In light of challenges in responding to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, political and security risks are clear barriers to an effective response
The GHS Index took two years to compile.
Priya Bapat, at the EIU, said: "It's a treasure trove of information related to health security.
“Our team of more than 100 researchers and reviewers assessed regulations and collected information, working in more than 50 languages across 195 countries—and all of this is publicly available.
"We hope the index will be a tool for leaders to make effective policy decisions."
Newly emerging diseases by continent
- Cryptosporidiosis - an intestinal disease caused by microscopic parasites
- E.coli O104:H4 - a strain of bacteria that caused outbreak in Germany in 2011
- Variant Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease (vCJD) - brain disease caused by eating infected beef
- Enterovirus D68 - group of viruses that can cause polio and hand, food and mouth disease
- Heartland virus - viral disease spread by infected tick bites
- Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome - severe and sometimes fatal respiratory disease caused by infected rodents
- H3N2v influenza - strain of flu that started in pigs
- Cyclosporiasis - intestinal illness caused by microscopic parasites
- E. coli O157:H7 - form of the bacteria
- 2009 H1N1 influenza - swine flu
- Bourbon virus - understood to be spread through tick or insect bite
- Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome
- Human monkeypox - similar to smallpox transmitted from rodents or primates
- Ebola virus
- Zika virus
- Hepatitis C
- Akhmeta virus (AKMV) - a form of pox virus
- Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) - viral respiratory disease, sometimes known as camel flu
- Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Bunyavirus (SFTSV) - a type of haemorrhagic fever
- E. coli O157:H7 - strain of bacteria
- H5N6 influenza - strain of bird flu
- H10N8 influenza - strain of bird flu
- H7N9 influenza - strain of bird flu
- H5N1 influenza - strain of bird flu
- Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) - outbreaks in 2002 and 2004
- Nipah virus - transmitted from animals, contaminated food or directly between infected people
- Hendra virus - virus that infects large fruit bats that can be passed to horses and people