January 18, 2019
3 min read

WHO announces 10 threats to global health in 2019


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WHO announced a list of 10 health issues that will require their attention in 2019. To address these issues, WHO is beginning a 5-year strategic plan, the 13th General Programme of Work. The plan has a triple billion target to ensure 1 billion more people benefit from access to health care, 1 billion more people are protected from health emergencies and 1 billion more people experience better health and well-being.

Infectious Disease News has compiled a list of 10 stories involving the very same threats to global health listed by WHO. – by Erin Michael

Air pollution and climate change

New populations are experiencing increased threats of Lyme disease because blacklegged ticks are migrating northward into zones that were previously too cold for their survival. Like other disease vectors, blacklegged ticks reproduce and survive better at higher temperatures, according to Ben Beard, PhD, chief of the Bacterial Diseases Branch of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases. Read more.

Noncommunicable diseases

According to WHO, noncommunicable diseases are responsible for 70% of deaths worldwide. Researchers have found that HIV comorbidities, primarily age-related noncommunicable diseases, are increasing as the HIV-infected population ages. Read more.

Global influenza pandemic

If successful, experts believe a so-called “universal” influenza vaccine could protect patients against all strains of the virus for decades — maybe even a lifetime. It could mean a world without seasonal epidemics and global pandemics of influenza, which remain among the world’s biggest infectious disease threats. Unlike seasonal epidemics, which mainly occur in winter in most parts of the world, pandemics can go on for a year or more and occur when novel animal influenza viruses mutate and begin infecting humans. Read more.

Image of a person getting vaccinated.  
WHO listed pandemic influenza as a major threat to human health in 2019.
Source: Adobe Stock

Fragile and vulnerable settings

WHO expressed “severe concern” recently over the conditions in the Rukban settlement in Syria, located near the border of Jordan, where approximately 40,000 people remain stranded. The risk for respiratory diseases associated with overcrowding and indoor air pollution, including acute respiratory infections, influenza, measles and tuberculosis, and chronic respiratory diseases like asthma, are of particular concern for young children in the settlement. Read more.

Antimicrobial resistance

In recent years, much emphasis has been placed on the cautious and appropriate use of antibiotics as a means of mitigating the threat of antimicrobial resistance. Yet antibiotic overprescribing remains a concern, particularly in outpatient settings such as the physician’s office, urgent care centers, clinics and EDs. Read more.


Ebola and other high-threat pathogens

The Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America has called for a renewed, coordinated, multi-country response to the ongoing Ebola virus outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, or DRC. The statement followed an announcement that a health care worker from the United States was evacuated to a hospital in Nebraska after possibly being exposed to Ebola on the ground in the DRC. The U.S. evacuated CDC staff from the outbreak zone months ago over security fears. Read more.

Weak primary health care

To achieve universal health coverage, strong primary health care is needed, according to WHO. A recent study showed that residents in “cold spots” — or communities with poor access to regular health care — were more likely to have chronic conditions like obesity, and they were less likely to undergo cancer screening. Read more.

Vaccine hesitancy

More than half of bills proposed by state legislators concerning immunization would expand people’s access to vaccine exemptions, according to research published in the American Journal of Public Health. Although researchers noted that most bills signed into law restrict access to exemptions, they said the prevalence of the anti-vaccine mindset should raise concerns about public health. Read more.


A new study suggests that patients with asymptomatic dengue virus infection are 80% as infectious as symptomatic patients, underscoring the important role of “silent transmission” in spread of the disease, according to researchers. Read more.


Based on a systematic review and meta-analysis of available data, researchers calculated that around 14% of transgender women and 3% of transgender men in the United States have HIV. Although the HIV prevalence estimate for transgender women was lower than previous estimates, the researchers noted that it was “still substantial in comparison with other vulnerable populations.” Read more.


WHO. Ten threats to global health in 2019. Accessed January 16, 2019.

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.