COMMITTEE: World Health Organization

TOPIC: Fighting against epidemics and pandemics

Committee Director: Buse Irmak ÖNAL

Deputy-Committee Director: Sıla ÖNCÜL


1. Welcome letter from the Committee Directors

2. Introduction to the Committee

2.1. About WHO

3. Introduction to the Committee Agenda

4. Key terms

5. Pandemic Alert System

6.  OUTBREAK: 10 of the worst pandemics in history

7. Research Questions

  1. Welcome letter from the Committee Directors

Distinguished participants and respectable guests,

It is an honor for us to welcome you all to the first session of Fen Bilimleri  Model United Nations in Balıkesir.  As a comittee directors of World Health Organization, we are Buse Irmak Önal and Sıla ÖNCÜ. We are studying at Balıkesir Açı Highschool. We are very excited to meet you at FLBMUN Conference. We think we will spend 2 beautiful days together. We believe that we will talk about important issues for our world in our committee and find really useful solutions to these issues. See you on March 14!!

 Comittee Director: Buse Irmak ÖNAL

Deputy-Committee Director: Sıla ÖNCÜL

2. Introduction to the Committee

2.1. About WHO

They are building a better, healthier future for people all over the world.

Working with 194 Member States, across six regions, and from more than 150 offices, WHO staff are united in a shared commitment to achieve better health for everyone, everywhere.

They strive to combat diseases – communicable diseases like influenza and HIV, and noncommunicable diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They help mothers and children survive and thrive so they can look forward to a healthy old age. They ensure the safety of the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink – and the medicines and vaccines they need.

WHO began when our Constitution came into force on 7 April 1948 – a date we now celebrate every year as World Health Day.

They are now more than 7000 people working in 150 country offices, in six regional offices and at their headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Their primary role is to direct and coordinate international health within the United Nations system.

Their main areas of work are health systems; health through the life-course; noncommunicable and communicable diseases; preparedness, surveillance and response; and corporate services.

They support countries as they coordinate the efforts of governments and partners – including bi- and multilaterals, funds and foundations, civil society organizations and the private sector.

Working together, they attain health objectives by supporting national health policies and strategies.


3. Introduction to the Committee Agenda

The internationally accepted definition of a pandemic is straightforward and well known: “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”.


Data and analyses that inform on the relevant features in the early course of pandemics and epidemics become available continuously. Initial analyses can be misleading and the pattern of infection and disease can also change over time. In the 2009 pandemic, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) used updatable published risk assessments to organize this information, comment on its implications for the response and identify the most important areas of uncertainty. This approach was based on a list of “known unknowns” of pandemics, part of a pre-planned “surveillance in a pandemic” strategy.

The increasing trend for international travel and population mobility have led to increased global interconnectivity and along with that global pandemics. The 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak – the largest recorded in history –  illustrated how these features along with a community unprepared for a sudden outbreak can turn a situation into a crisis, one that costs thousands of lives.

UNİCEF’s research aims to answer the following questions.

  1. Where is the disease under investigation more likely to spread next?

  2. Therefore, where should the response efforts be mostly focused to prevent the spread?


This information will inform UNICEF country offices and other stakeholders to take faster data-driven decisions about epidemic prevention and containment.


4. Key Terms

Pandemic: A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease.


An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and spreads around the world, and most people do not have immunity. Viruses that have caused past pandemics typically originated from animal influenza viruses.


Some aspects of influenza pandemics can appear similar to seasonal influenza while other characteristics may be quite different. For example, both seasonal and pandemic influenza can cause infections in all age groups, and most cases will result in self-limited illness in which the person recovers fully without treatment. However, typical seasonal influenza causes most of its deaths among


the elderly while other severe cases occur most commonly in people with a variety of medical conditions.


Epidemic: An epidemic is the rapid spread of infectious disease to a large number of people in a given population within a short period of time, usually two weeks or less. For example, in meningococcal infections, an attack rate in excess of 15 cases per 100,000 people for two consecutive weeks is considered an epidemic.


Disease Outbreak: A disease outbreak happens when a disease occurs in greater numbers than expected in a community or region or during a season. An outbreak may occur in one community or even extend to several countries. It can last from days to years.


Sometimes a single case of a contagious disease is considered an outbreak. This may be true if it is an unknown disease, is new to a community, or has been absent from a population for a long time.


If you observe what you think might be a disease outbreak, report it right away to your health care provider or public health department.


5. Pandemic Alert System:

The World Health Organization (WHO) provides an influenza pandemic alert system, with a scale ranging from Phase 1 (a low risk of a flu pandemic) to Phase 6 (a full-blown pandemic):

  • Phase 1: A virus in animals has caused no known infections in humans.

  • Phase 2: An animal flu virus has caused infection in humans.

  • Phase 3: Sporadic cases or small clusters of disease occur in humans. Human-to-human transmission, if any, is insufficient to cause community-level outbreaks.


  • Phase 4: The risk for a pandemic is greatly increased but not certain.

  • Phase 5: Spread of disease between humans is occurring in more than one country of one WHO region.

  • Phase 6: Community-level outbreaks are in at least one additional country in a different WHO region from phase 5. a global pandemic is under way.

How many people die from a pandemic depends upon:

  • The number of people who become infected

  • The severity of disease caused by the virus (its virulence)

  • The vulnerability of affected populations

  • The effectiveness of preventive steps


6. OUTBREAK: 10 of the worst pandemics in history

Scientists and medical researchers have for years have differed over the exact definition of a pandemic (is it a pandemic, or an epidemic), but one thing everyone agrees on is that the word describes the widespread occurrence of disease, in excess of what might normally be expected in a geographical region.

Cholera, bubonic plague, smallpox, and influenza are some of the most brutal killers in human history. And outbreaks of these diseases across international borders, are properly defined as pandemic, especially smallpox, which throughout history, has killed between 300-500 million people in its 12,000 year existence.

A final note: The most recent outbreak of the Ebola virus, which has killed thousands of people, is still confined to West Africa. It may someday be pandemic, but for now, is considered an epidemic — and is therefore not included on this list.






Death Toll: 36 million

First identified in Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1976, HIV/AIDS has truly proven itself as a global pandemic, killing more than 36 million people since 1981. Currently there are between 31 and 35 million people living with HIV, the vast majority of those are in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 5% of the population is infected, roughly 21 million people. As awareness has grown, new treatments have been developed that make HIV far more manageable, and many of those infected go on to lead productive lives. Between 2005 and 2012 the annual global deaths from HIV/AIDS dropped from 2.2 million to 1.6 million.


Death Toll: 1 million
Cause: Influenza

A category 2 Flu pandemic sometimes referred to as “the Hong Kong Flu,” the 1968 flu pandemic was caused by the H3N2 strain of the Influenza A virus, a genetic offshoot of the H2N2 subtype. From the first reported case on July 13, 1968 in Hong Kong, it took only 17 days before outbreaks of the virus were reported in Singapore and Vietnam, and within three months had spread to The Philippines, India, Australia, Europe, and the United States. While the 1968 pandemic had a comparatively low mortality rate (.5%) it still resulted in the deaths of more than a million people, including 500,000 residents of Hong Kong, approximately 15% of its population at the time.


ASIAN FLU (1956-1958)

Death Toll: 2 million
Cause: Influenza

Asian Flu was a pandemic outbreak of Influenza A of the H2N2 subtype, that originated in China in 1956 and lasted until 1958. In its two-year spree, Asian Flu traveled from the Chinese province of Guizhou to Singapore, Hong Kong, and the United States. Estimates for the death toll of the Asian Flu vary depending on the source, but the World Health Organization places the final tally at approximately 2 million deaths, 69,800 of those in the US alone.



Death Toll: 20 -50 million
Cause: Influenza

Between 1918 and 1920 a disturbingly deadly outbreak of influenza tore across the globe, infecting over a third of the world’s population and ending the lives of 20 – 50 million people. Of the 500 million people infected in the 1918 pandemic, the mortality rate was estimated at 10% to 20%, with up to 25 million deaths in the first 25 weeks alone. What separated the 1918 flu pandemic from other influenza outbreaks was the victims; where influenza had always previously only killed juveniles and the elderly or already weakened patients, it had begun striking down hardy and completely healthy young adults, while leaving children and those with weaker immune systems still alive.



Death Toll: 800,000+
Cause: Cholera

Like its five previous incarnations, the Sixth Cholera Pandemic originated in India where it killed over 800,000, before spreading to the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Russia. The Sixth Cholera Pandemic was also the source of the last American outbreak of Cholera (1910–1911). American health authorities, having learned from the past, quickly sought to isolate the infected, and in the end only 11 deaths occurred in the U.S. By 1923 Cholera cases had been cut down dramatically, although it was still a constant in India.


FLU PANDEMIC (1889-1890)

Death Toll: 1 million
Cause: Influenza

Originally the “Asiatic Flu” or “Russian Flu” as it was called, this strain was thought to be an outbreak of the Influenza A virus subtype H2N2, though recent discoveries have instead found the cause to be the Influenza A virus subtype H3N8. The first cases were observed in May 1889 in three separate and distant locations, Bukhara in Central Asia (Turkestan), Athabasca in northwestern Canada, and Greenland. Rapid population growth of the 19th century, specifically in urban areas, only helped the flu spread, and before long the outbreak had spread across the globe. Though it was the first true epidemic in the era of bacteriology and much was learned from it. In the end, the 1889-1890 Flu Pandemic claimed the lives of over a million individuals.


Death Toll: 1 million
Cause: Cholera

Generally considered the most deadly of the seven cholera pandemics, the third major outbreak of Cholera in the 19th century lasted from 1852 to 1860. Like the first and second pandemics, the Third Cholera Pandemic originated in India, spreading from the Ganges River Delta before tearing through Asia, Europe, North America and Africa and ending the lives of over a million people. British physician John Snow, while working in a poor area of London, tracked cases of cholera and eventually succeeded in identifying contaminated water as the means of transmission for the disease. Unfortunately the same year as his discovery (1854) went down as the worst year of the pandemic, in which 23,000 people died in Great Britain.


THE BLACK DEATH (1346-1353)

Death Toll: 75 – 200 million
Cause: Bubonic Plague

From 1346 to 1353 an outbreak of the Plague ravaged Europe, Africa, and Asia, with an estimated death toll between 75 and 200 million people. Thought to have originated in Asia, the Plague most likely jumped continents via the fleas living on the rats that so frequently lived aboard merchant ships. Ports being major urban centers at the time, were the perfect breeding ground for the rats and fleas, and thus the insidious bacterium flourished, devastating three continents in its wake.



Death Toll: 25 million
Cause: Bubonic Plague

Thought to have killed perhaps half the population of Europe, the Plague of Justinian was an outbreak of the bubonic plague that afflicted the Byzantine Empire and Mediterranean port cities, killing up to 25 million people in its year long reign of terror. Generally regarded as the first recorded incident of the Bubonic Plague, the Plague of Justinian left its mark on the world, killing up to a quarter of the population of the Eastern Mediterranean and devastating the city of Constantinople, where at its height it was killing an estimated 5,000 people per day and eventually resulting in the deaths of 40% of the city’s population.



Death Toll: 5 million
Cause: Unknown

Also known as the Plague of Galen, the Antonine Plague was an ancient pandemic that affected Asia Minor, Egypt, Greece, and Italy and is thought to have been either Smallpox or Measles, though the true cause is still unknown. This unknown disease was brought back to Rome by soldiers returning from Mesopotamia around 165AD; unknowingly, they had spread a disease which would end up killing over 5 million people and decimating the Roman army.


World Outbreak Diseases Map





7. Research Questions

  1. 1. Which institutions can be worked to prevent epidemics?

  2. How can precautions be taken in places where epidemics are seen?

  3. What are the emergence points of epidemics?

  4. What are the environments in which epidemic diseases can spread?

  5. What are the effects of epidemic diseases to public?