Thanks to globalization, the populations of the world are extremely connected like never before. While this has led to many benefits, it also brings an often underestimated global security risk: the spread of disease and a negative effect on global health. After all, disease doesn’t only affect a single individual’s health. Diseases also have the potential to destroy communities and economies.

Past Examples

The threats of disease are alive and well. Just a few years ago the world saw the largest Ebola outbreak in history. In 2015, the Zika virus presented a major threat. Since then, regional outbreaks of yellow fever, chikungunya, and H7H9 influenza have occurred. These are only a few of hundreds. To make things worse, multidrug resistant “superbugs” are making a return around the world.

According to Jordan W. Tapper, M.D., M.P.H, the senior advisor to CDC’s Center for Global Health, outbreaks that begin in a remote village can spread to major cities on any continent in under thirty-six hours. Once they reach these important cities, the situation can escalate into a global crisis.

Even if an outbreak doesn’t reach a different country such as the United States, it can still have an economic impact on trade partners.

The Ebola Crisis

Think about the Ebola crisis as an example. Although it began in west Africa, the disease became a threat to people around the world. People with the infection traveled to Europe and North America. Ebola proved just how vulnerable societies everywhere are to disease. Borders can’t stop the spread of disease. Today not even natural barriers such as oceans can prevent a disease from spreading from its epicenters.

Biological Attacks

Other global health threats to global security are targeted biological attacks. Due to recent advances in biotechnology, infectious diseases have the potential to be harnessed as a weapon. This would unleash major destruction. Such diseases spread extremely quickly. They wouldn’t just kill people, but could also lead to political and economic instability. Diseases are fast-acting and can start to destroy communities in a matter of days.

In 2001, this threat proved to be a reality when anthrax spores were delivered through the postal system to targeted populations.

Most communities are also ill-prepared for such an attack. When an outbreak occurs, diagnosing the disease, creating a vaccine, and implementing a cure is a painfully slow process. By the time necessary steps are taken, it could be too late.

Global health is linked to global security. Due to globalization, societies are connected like never before, making spreading disease a quick process. Advances in biotechnology have also led to potential targeted attacks through dangerous diseases.