Background: Epidemics are a constant threat in the 21st century, particularly disease outbreaks following spillover of an animal virus to humans. Timeliness, a key metric in epidemic response, can be examined to identify critical steps and delays in public health action. Aim: To examine timeliness, we analysed the response to the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) epidemic, with a focus on the international and One Health response efforts. Methods: We performed a historical review of the MERS epidemic between September 2012 and January 2019 in three steps: (i) the construction of a timeline identifying critical events in the global response, (ii) the performance of a critical path analysis to define outbreak milestones and (iii) a time gap analysis to measure timeliness in the execution of these milestones. Results: We proposed 14 MERS-specific milestones at different phases of the epidemic, assessing timeliness of the public health response as well as at the animal-human interface, where we identified the most significant delays. Conclusions: When comparing timeliness across three coronavirus epidemics, i.e. MERS (2012), SARS (2002) and COVID-19 (2019), we identified clear improvements over time for certain milestones including laboratory confirmation and diagnostics development, while this was not as apparent for others, as the identification of zoonotic hosts. To more efficiently respond to emerging threats, the global health community should widely assess and tackle specific delays in implementing response interventions by addressing challenges in the sharing of information, data and resources, as well as efficiency, quality, transparency and reliability of reporting events.
|Publication status||Published - 1 Dec 2022|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The funding sources of this study were the Wellcome Trust and UKaid, the COMPARE project (www.compare-europe.eu) funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (grant agreement number: 643476), and the Veni SGW program (project number VI.Veni.201S.044) of the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The funders had no role on defining the study methodology, design, data collection and analysis, or presenting and writing the results.
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