Global health is recurrently being threatened by new and re-emerging infectious diseases

Global health is recurrently being threatened by new and re-emerging infectious diseases. Examples of new and re-emerging infectious diseases include SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), new variant CJD (Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease), avian flu and Ebola. These diseases share a common feature that the pathogen involved was originally transmitted from animals to humans.

As people travel more extensively and more frequently to various parts of the globe, contagious new diseases can spread rapidly. The ability to diagnose the infection quickly and reliably is a prerequisite for the control of the epidemic.

At the 55th session of WHO Western Pacific Regional Committee Meeting held in Shanghai, People's Republic of China from 13 to 17 September 2004, international cooperation in the face of public health emergencies and an adequate global outbreak alert and response system were reiterated. Today, on 20 September 2004, Dr Wilfried Kreisel, Director of the WHO Centre for Health Development, in his opening address, emphasized that the ongoing WHO Consultation on a Coordinated Response for the Fast-Track Development of Diagnostic Tools for New and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases is very timely to highlight global action and coordinated collaboration to combat and overcome global public health threats. He expressed his strong hope that this meeting will also contribute towards meeting the local needs as the citizens in Hyogo Prefecture were extremely concerned about avian influenza.

Bringing together laboratory scientists, intellectual property specialists and public health experts, this meeting will review best practices and lessons learnt from recent outbreaks of emerging diseases and discuss potential problems and solutions in the implementation of strategies for the fast-track development of diagnostic tools for new and re-emerging infectious diseases and to develop a plan of action outlining the next steps.

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