Researchers at Duke University have found that a pandemic similar to COVID-19 can occur annually with a two percent chance. This means that a person born in 2000 has a 38% chance of encountering it by 2021.
And this probability, according to the authors, is only growing.
The most important finding is that major pandemics such as COVID-19 and the Spanish flu are highly likely to occur. Understanding that pandemics are not all that rare should boost efforts to prevent them.
William Pan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Global Environmental Health at Duke University
The authors used new statistical methods to measure the magnitude and frequency of disease outbreaks. Their analyzes included plague, smallpox, cholera, typhoid, and new influenza viruses.
As a result, researchers have identified a high variety of diseases that can cause a pandemic. They also found patterns that allowed them to describe the likelihood of a recurrence of events of a similar magnitude.
The deadliest pandemic in modern history was the Spanish flu, killing more than 30 million people between 1918 and 1920. The likelihood of a recurrence of such a pandemic ranges from 0.3% to 1.9% per year over the study period. On the other hand, this means that a pandemic of this magnitude should occur within the next 400 years.
Also, new data show that the risk of intense disease outbreaks is growing rapidly. The authors based on how the spread of new pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2, has been increasing over the past 50 years. As a result, the researchers estimated that the likelihood of new outbreaks of such diseases would triple over the next 10 to 30 years.