Emerging viral diseases: fighting an uphill battle

Abstract number: 1732_220

Lam S.K.

In the last decade, Southeast Asia has become the epicentre of a number of new disease outbreaks with the potential for global spread. Nipah virus encephalitis first occurred in Malaysia in 1998 and there is serological evidence that the virus has spread to Cambodia, Thailand, China and India. In Bangladesh, Nipah virus or one closely related to it has caused several outbreaks in Bangladesh with a high mortality rate. The outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) followed by avian influenza H5N1 in China and their subsequent spread led to fear of global pandemics. Many factors accounting for the emergence of new infections must be in place prior to such outbreaks. The convergence of a number of these factors in Southeast Asia makes this region a hotspot for their emergence.

In order to mount a programme to fight emerging viral diseases, it is important to have adequate funds and political commitments. The key to a comprehensive programme includes good surveillance, clinical hospital management, preventing disease spread, strong laboratory support, research and evaluation, and a well-tested national preparedness plan. Surveillance is complicated in the case of a zoonotic disease such as avian influenza H5N1. Hospitals are ill-equipped to cater to large numbers of severely ill patients as in the Nipah virus outbreak in Malaysia. Preventing disease spread in an era of globalisation poses tremendous challenges in developing countries that depend on international trade and tourism. Research and evaluation are greatly hampered by lack of manpower and infrastructure, including the lack of high security laboratories. Although there are guidelines available for pandemic preparedness as in the case of avian influenza, national plans are totally inadequate and do not measure up to expectation.

Despite these inadequacies, developing countries in Southeast Asia are making contingency plans in the event of unexpected viral emergence. There is no doubt that this will be an uphill battle but certain measures initiated in the region will hopefully reduce the spread of emerging viral diseases.

Session Details

Date: 31/03/2007
Time: 00:00-00:00
Session name: European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
Location: ICC, Munich, Germany
Presentation type:
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