World faces threats of new infectious diseases: WHO|
GENEVA (AFP) - The World Health Organisation on Thursday warned that a new
deadly infectious disease like AIDS or Ebola is bound to appear in the 21st
century, in a report urging more global solidarity to tackle an expanding array
of health threats.
"It would be extremely naive and complacent to assume that there will not be
another disease like AIDS, another Ebola, another SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome), sooner or later," the 2007 World Health Report said.
Since the 1970s, new diseases have been identified at the "unprecedented"
rate of one or more per year, the report on global health security in the 21st
Other centuries-old threats such as influenza, malaria and tuberculosis, were
also thriving due to a combination of biological mutations, rising resistance to
antibiotics and weak health systems.
"We clearly have gone through a huge shift -- our relationship to the animal
kingdom, our travel, our social, sexual and other behaviour have changed the
nature of our relationship with the microbial world," said Mike Ryan, head of
WHO's epidemic and pandemic alert.
"The result of that is the emergence of new pathogens and the spread of new
pathogens around the world," despite a heightened capacity to identify them, he
The report stressed that health threats were no longer easily confined within
a country but could spread around the world swiftly, partly due to the expansion
in passenger air travel over the past half century and to trade.
It also underlined the threat from food-borne diseases, chemical, biological
or nuclear accidents or attacks and industrial pollution.
Climate change "may put millions of people at risk in several countries,"
making it a public health issue, the report added.
WHO Director General Margaret Chan highlighted the impact of population
growth, rapid urbanisation, intensive farming practices, environmental
degradation and the misuse of antibiotics, saying they helped the microbial
world thrive and evolve.
"The international dimensions of emerging and epidemic-prone diseases are
ominous," Chan told journalists.
"Given today's universal vulnerability to these threats, better security
calls for global solidarity, for collective action in the face of a shered
threat," she added.
However, the report underlined that there were "serious gaps, particularly in
health services in many countries," caused by poverty or a lack of investment,
that severely weakened the global safety net.
Health and medical care were not only essential for treatment and prevention,
but also for detecting new threats such as disease outbreaks, as well as
bioweapon attacks or environmental health problems, and limiting the risk they
pose, said the report.
Open sharing of medical know-how, technology and supplies between rich and
poor countries is also crucial, according to the WHO, and "one of the most
feasible routes to global health security.
The three historical advances that helped stifle diseases such as bubonic
plague, cholera and smallpox -- quarantines, better sanitation and immunisation
-- became successes once they were applied internationally, the report
The WHO introduced new international health regulations this year to sharpen
the response of its 193 members to major health threats within their own borders
It is also trying to resolve Indonesian complaints about the availability of
newly developed medicines in poor countries, which halted crucial bird flu virus
sharing with foreign laboratories.
The sharing of tissue samples from human victims is needed to detect possible
mutations in the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus -- one of the biggest fears of the
beginning of this century -- that might lead to a flu pandemic.
Original article: AFP
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