(CNN) - The world is at a heightened risk for a deadly global pandemic that could kill up to 80 million people, according to a new report published on Wednesday by the World Health Organization’s Global Preparedness Monitoring Board.
The report said in a worst-case-scenario situation, such a pandemic could kill between 50 to 80 million people, destabilize nations and disrupt the global economy.
The researchers studied outbreaks of disease across the globe, such as Zika and Ebola, between 2011 and 2018.
“Epidemic-prone diseases such as influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), Ebola, Zika, plague, yellow fever and others, are harbingers of a new era of high-impact, potentially fast-spreading outbreaks that are more frequently detected and increasingly difficult to manage,” the report stated.
Experts found several factors that could exacerbate the spread of a pandemic - including increased globalization that would allow the disease to travel at a much higher rate.
And such a thing could happen very quickly.
“The 1918 global influenza pandemic sickened one-third of the world population and killed as many as 50 million people - 2.8% of the total population. If a similar contagion occurred today with a population four times larger and travel times anywhere in the world less than 36 hours, 50-80 million people could perish,” the report said.
It also said online misinformation and growing distrust in institutions could be an obstacle for health workers fighting disease.
Preparedness is key, the report’s authors state.
Recommendations include committing and investing in preparedness, conducting exercises, engaging many different sectors of society to build trust, making sure resources in place to quickly develop and distribute counter-measures and making sure even the poorest nations have adequate funding to build up their own health systems.
"For too long, we have allowed a cycle of panic and neglect when it comes to pandemics: we ramp up efforts when there is a serious threat, then quickly forget about them when the threat subsides. It is well past time to act,” the report’s authors said.