“THE HOT ZONE” SCENARIO – WILL IT HAPPEN AGAIN?

The Global Virus Network (GVN) Confirms That Deadly Hemorrhagic Viruses Are a Real & Imminent Threat

Baltimore, MD, May 28, 2019: The Hot Zone, which premiered on Monday, May 27, 2019, is a three night limited series on National Geographic, based on Richard Preston’s best-selling book that depicts the true story of deadly, airborne hemorrhagic fever viruses, Ebola and Marburg.  According to the Global Virus Network (GVN), a worldwide coalition of preeminent virologists engaged in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, existing and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, what took place in 1989 foretells of what could well occur both in the present and in the foreseeable future.

Said  internationally renowned virus hunter, Robert C. Gallo, MD, most widely known for discovering the first human retrovirus and for co-discovering HIV as the cause of AIDS, “What people the world over should be asking is not whether an outbreak of a lethal  virus has the potential to become a global pandemic, as there are a myriad and multitude of viral threats that are an unequivocally real and indisputably present danger to mankind, but whether the world’s doctors and scientists are capable, let alone prepared, to handle a devastating viral outbreak.”

In 2011, Dr. Gallo co-founded the Global Virus Network (GVN) with William Hall, BSc, PhD, MD, DTMH,  professor of microbiology at University College Dublin in Ireland and the late Reinhard Kurth, MD, former chairman of the Ernst Schering Foundation Council and former president of Germany’s Robert Koch Institute, to establish and maintain global collaborations between the world’s top virologists and to serve as a global authority and resource for the identification, investigation, containment and treatment of viral diseases that pose threats to mankind.  While there are a number of global health organizations which are responsible for virus research and surveillance, prior to the advent of the GVN, there is no integrated global network that could pool the knowledge, expertise and resources of the world’s leading translational and basic science virologists to investigate, interpret, explain and disseminate information about viral diseases that pose threats to mankind. In addition, the GVN works very closely with and collaborates with some of the world’s largest, most recognized health organizations, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and more.

In relation to hemorrhagic viruses, scientists and the GVN are predicting the following:

  • The cost to the global economy is estimated to be in excess of $200 billion annually, an increase of almost $50 billion since 2001.
  • According to the GVN, Dengue fever, which heretofore has been relatively common only in tropical countries, is now emerging in the U.S. due to climate change and the spread of mosquito habitats. Polio and measles, viruses that were once nearly eliminated by vaccines, are now re-emerging because government vaccination programs have lapsed in the belief that these viruses have been eradicated.
  • Due to the increasing proximity between animals and man from urban development and deforestation, there is a growing number of viruses which originate in animals and jump to humans. The GVN investigates the emergence of a number of these viruses, such as Ebola, Lassa and SARS, which are highly contagious and extremely deadly.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the continuing AIDS crisis, which began in the 1980s, has led to 35 million deaths to-date, and worldwide flu pandemics have killed millions. Contributing to these viruses becoming global pandemics was the lack of an integrated global approach and response by the medical and scientific communities.  Millions died and millions more were infected over a period of years because governments and health authorities throughout the world were unprepared and unable to join forces in order to harness the collective knowledge, expertise, resources and technologies necessary to effectively battle a new or existing viral pandemic.

Furthermore, the GVN launched the Anticipation & Preparedness Taskforce (A&P Taskforce) earlier this year, led by Christian Bréchot, MD, PhD, president of the GVN, and co-chaired by Elodie Ghedin, PhD, director of the Center for Genomics and Systems Biology, and professor of biology and global public health at New York University, and Giuseppe Ippolito, MD, the scientific director of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases (INMI) “Lazzaro Spallanzani” in Rome and director of the WHO Collaborating Center. The A&P Taskforce is comprised of more than a dozen experts from GVN Centers of Excellence and Affiliates and its mission is to develop and employ innovative and pioneering approaches to identify and elucidate the impact and magnitude of future viral epidemics by coalescing mathematic modelling with epidemiology, genomics, medicine and public health.

“The identification of emerging, re-emerging and unknown infectious diseases and surveillance of viral pathogens humans and wildlife is critical for early prediction of future disease outbreaks and epidemics.  This must be based on science and the best of research activities on these topics,” said Dr. Bréchot, who is also former president of the Institut Pasteur. “Analyzing these viral pathogens as well as the host response to these pathogens will enable us to build models for rapid diagnostics and thus early identification as well as prompt clinical management of suspected cases.”

When a situation like ‘The Hot Zone’ arises again, the virologists of GVN will help mitigate the risk of a viral epidemic by bringing together the knowledge, expertise and resources of the world’s leading medical virologists. “Without an integrated and coalesced approach by the medical virology community and scientists throughout the world, nothing can be expediently and effectively accomplished.  You do not have an explanation of disease causation, drug therapy, a cure or a vaccine.  The GVN is integral to our world’s security against existing and new viral threats,” said Dr. Gallo, who  is international scientific advisor of the GVN and The Homer & Gudelsky Distinguished Professor in Medicine and co-founder and director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

In a recent article published in Science by James LeDuc, PhD, director of the Galveston National Laboratory, professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and head of the GVN’s A&P Taskforce biodefense and biosecurity initiative, titled, “Network for Safe and Secure Labs” (LeDuc, 2018), he states, “dangerous diseases exist in many corners of the world and that they can cause substantial human suffering and financial devastation locally and internationally. In response, institutions and nations are constructing maximum biocontainment laboratories (MCLs) to address these threats. Not every country requires an MCL, but every country can benefit from the collaborative operation of these labs. We encourage existing MCLs to convene a forum that brings together all stakeholders to conceive of an MCL network so that these critical labs can tackle urgent global health needs safely, securely, and productively.”

The GVN is grateful and appreciative that other big companies and organizations are joining the initiative to support nonprofit organizations and universities around the world with the mission of fighting infectious diseases – specifically Facebook. The company recently announced its new initiative focused on using its data and technology to map the spread of diseases through the introduction of three new maps, including population density with demographic estimates, movement maps and network coverage maps. Facebook would like to provide timely and relevant information to health organizations in order to help them address epidemics.

 

About the Global Virus Network (GVN)

The Global Virus Network (GVN) is essential and critical in the preparedness, defense and first research response to emerging, existing and unidentified viruses that pose a clear and present threat to public health, working in close coordination with established national and international institutions. It is a coalition comprised of eminent human and animal virologists from 45 Centers of Excellence and seven Affiliates in 29 countries worldwide, working collaboratively to train the next generation, advance knowledge about how to identify and diagnose pandemic viruses, mitigate and control how such viruses spread and make us sick, as well as develop drugs, vaccines and treatments to combat them. No single institution in the world has expertise in all viral areas other than the GVN, which brings together the finest medical virologists to leverage their individual expertise and coalesce global teams of specialists on the scientific challenges, issues and problems posed by pandemic viruses. The GVN is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, please visit www.gvn.org. Follow us on Twitter @GlobalVirusNews

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