China and World Health

As I have mentioned before, International Relations covers many topics and is not limited to those global issues which are related to politics/economics. A strong example of how IR can related to science, and people’s health on a global scale is the WHO, or World Health Organization. The WHO is a branch of the United Nations, it’s main purpose is to ensure that the people of every nation are properly protected from disease-spread. The WHO deal with large-scale epidemics, pandemics and also the discovery/prevention of new strains of diseases. With technological advancement at it’s peak, world-travel is as simple as it has ever been, this also means spreading foreign illness is as simple as it has ever been.

An example from recent years was/is the Swine Flu, a strain of influenza that is believed to have first manifested in Mexico. The Swine Flu spread fairly quickly and for a long period of time, many people were discouraged from travelling in and out of Mexico to further prevent the spread of the disease. Meaning that the WHO had made the move to, in a sense encourage the “quarantine” of Mexico, and many other areas that were experiencing localized epidemics. This subtle closing off of certain regions, is definitely an International Relations-related move.

During the week of February 8th-14th, 2014 I came across a short, but very interesting article in the “The World This Week” section of The Economist. The short section explained that Chinese Scientists had discovered what could potentially be a new strain of the Avian Influenza (Bird Flu). This discover was made after the death of an old woman, and another individual who became ill. Within the past 17 years, five new strains of influenza have been detected, and this new one has been named H10N8. China has also recently been experiencing an outbreak of H7N9, a virus akin to this one, that has been fatal to roughly 25% of the individuals it has infected.

I bring up this more recent influenza discovery, as it seems that China, as of the past 17 years has been experiencing very serious outbreaks of influenza/disease, and as a result of it occurring in such abundance, there has also been room for many mutations of these diseases, resulting in these five new strains that have been documented.  China, at the same time has slowly been growing into a business/International Relations “Mega-Nation” (China has 5 of the worlds “mega-cities”). This means that many people are constantly travelling in and out of China on business alone, let alone the many students, tourists and family members coming and going. It raises the question, are mega-cities really the best thing for China right now? Or should disease-prevention be a more prominent issue? I believe that both are important but that the WHO and the United Nations should band together and brainstorm some new strategies in which a new superpower like China can thrive in all areas.

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