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A pandemic is an actively spreading disease outbreak occurring over a whole country or the world. Many diseases can result in pandemics including smallpox, typhus, malaria and tuberculosis. Recent examples include AIDS, bird flu viruses and Coronaviruses. Avian influenza, or bird flu, is a virus that crossed the species barrier to humans – much like COVID-19 did with bats. In 1918, an unusually deadly influenza pandemic called the Spanish Flu infected 500 million people worldwide and killed up to 100 million people - what was then 5% of the world’s population. Until 2020, the most recent and deadliest pandemics were the 2013-2014 Ebola virus disease in West Africa which killed 11,310 of the 28,616 people infected, and Saudi Arabia’s Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), a virus whose origin has been traced to camels, which was fatal in 282 of the 688 cases reported. However, this figure is likely an inexact total since Saudi Arabia, like China, is not forthcoming about reporting all its cases.

Advocates say it can take researchers months to develop antiviral medications, and years to bring an effective vaccine to market. They warn that during a pandemic, viruses can mutate within their host, resulting in new viruses that are immune to the medications which were effective before mutation. They also warn that air travel, on the scale we have today, may quickly spread a contagion throughout the world before it is detected.

Pending Legislation: Senate version of H.R.391 - Global Health Security Act of 2021 (passed House)
Sponsor: Rep. Gerald Connolly (VA)
Status: Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Chair: Sen. Bob Menendez (NJ)

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Poll Opening Date
November 22, 2021
Poll Closing Date
November 28, 2021

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