Global Virome Project Will Spend Next 10 Years Identifying Unknown Viruses in the Wild

Following recent outbreaks of viruses such as Zika and Ebola, public health researchers are increasingly working to discover new viruses before they emerge and cause human outbreaks. To meet that goal, this year will mark the launch of the Global Virome Project. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently published its priority list of diseases and pathogens in need of research and development in 2018. Along with viruses such as Lassa fever, Rift Valley fever, and Zika, last on that list is Disease X, which the WHO says represents the understanding that a currently unknown pathogen may emerge to cause a serious global epidemic in the human population. While the inclusion of Disease X has been somewhat controversial, it reflects the growing belief that rather than waiting for the emergence of a new pathogen to react, the public health community needs to find the next viral threats and prepare for them before they cause human pandemics. In a study published in 2017, researchers suggested that the most likely place to discover emerging pathogens would be along the fault lines of human-animal interaction. To that end, a new paper published in the journal Science has announced the impending launch of the Global Virome Project in 2018 to find unknown diseases in the wild, an effort expected to take 10 years and cost $1.2 billion. The project was first announced in 2016 as a proposed cooperative scientific initiative to identify and characterize 99% of the world’s zoonotic viruses with the potential to cause human epidemics.   To read more of the article, visit this link.

The Global Virome Project: Providing timely data to battle future pandemics

Outbreaks of previously unknown viral and other diseases have the potential to inflict serious and massive negative health and economic impact on the world. A new program, a really big idea, is set to start this year and looks to stay one step ahead of this situation identifying viruses in advance and provide timely data for public health interventions against future pandemics. It’s called the Global Virome Project and joining me to discuss this massive and important endeavor is Chief Scientific Officer with Metabiota, Eddy Rubin, MD, PhD. Visit this link to hear the interview.

Metabiota and African Risk Capacity (ARC) Help African Nations Better Plan for and Mitigate Risk of Infectious Disease Outbreaks

Today, Metabiota, the pioneer in epidemic risk modeling, with over 12 years building disease surveillance, lab diagnostics and response capacity across the African continent, announced it has commenced the modeling work for a trailblazing initiative with the African Risk Capacity (ARC), a Specialized Agency of the African Union (AU), to help Africa’s sovereign nations evaluate their epidemic risk, engage coordinated contingency planning with pilot country ministries, and equip governments with the financial resources to respond to the first signs of a national epidemic. The World Bank estimates the cost of managing the Ebola crisis could have topped $32 billion, with an estimated $2.2 billion lost in the gross domestic product (GDP) in the three hardest hit African countries in 2015 alone. Metabiota’s research shows that outbreaks illustrate distinct patterns and therefore can be insured so that resources, financing, and other risk profiling and contingency planning support can be set up in advance to offset the impact. To read more, visit this link.

Modeling the Casualty Exposures in Epidemics

A casualty actuary might be forgiven for thinking that illness and disease are what those “other” actuaries worry about. Though risk of illness is usually considered the province of the life-health actuary, a session at the 2017 CAS Annual Meeting in Anaheim, California, showed how epidemics can affect property-casualty risks. The session also described how to approach modeling those exposures. Speakers intoned that, if done right, the modeling could drive new insurance products. These developments could narrow the insurance gap — the chasm between what is insured and what could be insured. ... Cathine Lam, ACAS, an actuarial associate at Metabiota, continued the session with examples demonstrating how epidemics and pandemics involve property-casualty exposures. She pointed to what happened to a Dallas, Texas, hospital during the 2014 Ebola outbreak and described how the Zika virus befell Miami in 2016. Ebola in Dallas The deadly outbreak (28,000 cases/11,000 deaths worldwide) originated in West Africa. One man who contracted the disease only displayed symptoms after he traveled to Texas. He went to a hospital and died two weeks later. In the meantime, he infected two individuals. The property-casualty exposures include the following: Business interruption. When potential patients learned of possible Ebola exposure, the number of emergency room visits was cut in half. Additionally, the number of patients per day fell by 22 percent and net revenues declined by 25 percent ($12 million). After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the hospital was Ebola-free, revenues returned to normal. Malpractice. The victim’s family sued the hospital. A nurse also sued, alleging that the staff had inadequate training to deal with Ebola victims and that she had suffered a loss of privacy, becoming known as “the Ebola nurse.” And the exposures extended beyond the hospital. A bridal shop that the nurse had visited became known as “the Ebola shop.” It closed. Zika in Miami The 2016 Zika outbreak was the widest ever, Lam said. The virus is generally not dangerous to adults, but a pregnant woman can pass it to her fetus, causing severe birth defects. The first case in Miami occurred in the Wynwood neighborhood, where the CDC had issued a six-week travel advisory. The advisory was later lifted, but at its height, airline travel to the Miami area fell by 17 percent. Revenues from hotel taxes dropped about five percent and the majority of all businesses reported a decrease in revenue of at least 20 percent. The disease being modeled has to originate somewhere. From that point of origin, the amount that the disease spreads depends on the originating state’s ability to combat it. This is reflected in what Lam calls a “Preparedness Index.” Keeping these examples in mind, it takes little imagination to construct an insurance product that would respond to an epidemic. Pricing that product, though, would be a challenge. Epidemics are fortunately rare, Lam noted, so there will never be much historical data from which to project. The alternative was to build a model. Such a model, Lam said, would require a solid scientific foundation. It would be a multidisciplinary exercise, involving knowledge of how diseases spread and how economies are affected, among other things. The result would provide a granular look at how the spread of a disease would affect property-casualty exposures. At a high level, the procedure she described resembles catastrophe modeling, translated to the world of disease. As with a catastrophe model, one models the exposure, creates a catalog of events, and then uses the information to inform pricing and capital decisions. ... Read the full article here.

How the Flu’s Severity Will Effect Healthcare Spending

In addition to starting earlier, this season’s influenza is also remarkable for spreading throughout the United States relatively quickly—with all the continental U.S. states reporting widespread flu activity concurrently for the first time. Since January 1, the CDC has estimated that more than 5% of all doctor’s visits are attributable to influenza-like illnesses—which is consistent with moderately severe flu activity, says Mark Gallivan, MPH, senior data scientist, Metabiota, an epidemic risk analytics company in San Francisco. Flu hospitalizations have also spiked and reported deaths are consistent with the start of a moderate to severe season. Influenza is a serious disease that circulates annually in the United States, resulting in widespread illness. The CDC estimates that influenza-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of 12,000 (during 2011 to 2012) to a high of 56,000 (during 2012 to 2013). The influenza vaccine is recalibrated annually to try and match the anticipated strain, Patrick Ayscue, DVM, director of epidemiology, Metabiota, says. This year, the match is only moderately effective. Read more of this story here.

Think this flu season’s bad? Just wait until The Big One

“It’s pretty much 100% accepted.” Those aren’t the words you want to hear from a leading epidemiologist predicting a second coming of the deadliest flu pandemic in modern history. And this time around, the damage will be much, much greater. CRI sat down with Patrick Ayscue, director of epidemiology at Metabiota, to talk about the current flu strain that has staff grabbing the Kleenex left right and centre in an office near you, but the infectious disease expert was quick to shift attention to flu seasons yet to come.  “This is definitely a bad flu season,” Ayscue says. “It’s one of the worst ones we’ve seen in the last ten years or so, but actually 2014-2015 at this point was a bit worse.” What’s clouding our perception of the severity, he says, is the fact that this year’s flu season started earlier than normal. To read more of this appeared coverage in Corporate Risk and Insurance, click here.

The price of public health: Assessing epidemic risk management

The New Year marks the continuation of a deadly decade for infectious disease outbreaks. With the largest and most deadly outbreaks of cholera in modern history (Yemen and Haiti, respectively), the emergence and outbreaks of MERS in the Middle East and South Korea, the largest Ebola outbreak in history, and the explosion of the Zika virus globally, the 2010s has been a tragic decade for infectious disease outbreaks causing millions of illnesses and thousands of deaths. While the immediate impacts of infectious diseases are devastating for populations worldwide, they also pose significant economic concern for government officials, and, no less, the corporate risk function. For more of the article, click here.

Pandemics: A Worrying Global Public Health Threat

Metabiota authored the chapter "Pandemics: Risks, Impacts, and Mitigation" in the 3rd edition of Disease Control Priorities, funded in part by the Gates Foundation. DCP3 just came out with this great new global health educational video. Check it out by clicking here!  

InsurTech to Open Up Opportunities in Historically Excluded Risks

Epidemic risk modeller Metabiota predicts that in 2018 insurers will focus more on speed with increased appetite for risk to reach the needed returns and innovation in the InsurTech space will make this possible, opening up opportunities in historically excluded risks such as terrorism and pandemics. Metabiota Head of Data Research on Climate Risk, Damien Joly, believes that health risks around the world will increase next year due to the connection between catastrophic weather events and public health. Experts predict the financial impact of a global epidemic amounts to 0.7% of global income, or $570 billion. In 2018 modelling communities are expected to improve and enhance forecasting models with higher resolution and more timely data such as electronic health records and the genetic sequences of pathogens; these innovations could open up multi-billion dollar opportunities for re/insurers in risks that have traditionally been uninsurable. Metabiota said forecasting epidemics is the holy grail of infectious disease modelling and one that looks increasingly achievable in the year ahead. To read more of the story from Reinsurance News, click here.

When, not if: Are you prepared for pandemic risk?

Influenza (the flu) is one of the most common, highly contagious viral infections. It’s something we’re all familiar with, but is your business prepared for when that influenza strain takes the form of something like H1N1? Pandemics historically recur every 30 to 50 years, according to Lloyd’s. There’s reason to worry that the next one could be the worst yet. Increasing global networks and supply chains, rates of travel, and greater concentrations of the population living in cities all leave us more susceptible to infectious disease. The National Bureau of Economic Research estimates that a global pandemic event could have an impact of up to US$570bn – a staggering .7% of global income. “This is definitely a top-ten risk cited by most chief risk officers,” said Bill Rossi, CEO of Metabiota, a biotechnology company that uses data and risk analytics to assess infectious disease threats. Mitigation plans for infectious disease epidemics typically focus on the financial losses associated with direct costs, like treatment and response expenses, says a report compiled by Metabiota. The biggest share of costs related to epidemics, though, come from indirect impacts like reduced productivity. The World Health Organization estimates that indirect costs account for over 80% of the economic burden of epidemics. To view the entire article by Corporate Risk and Insurance Magazine, click here.