Biggest battles against infectious diseases may be yet to come -Health Risks in a Globalized World
Brussels, 21 October 2008. With the increase in plane traffic, contagious illnesses spread farther and faster than ever. Some diseases, such as tuberculosis, are becoming resistant to antibiotics. Old enemies like polio refuse to go away. Others like smallpox which have been eradicated threaten a devastating comeback if released.
These and other threats are explored by the World Health Organization (WHO) in its World Health Report 2007 ” A safer future: global public health security in the 21st century.
GreenFacts made a faithful summary of this WHO World Health Report. As of today, this full summary is published and accessible free of charge at www.greenfacts.org/en/global-public-health-threats/.
Highlights of WHO report on global public health security in the 21st century __Global public health security depends on efforts to prevent and respond to threats that endanger the collective health of the global population. Many of these threats are due to human action or to a lack of it. They can for insta
nce result from armed conflict, the incorrect use of antibiotics, or poor animal feeding and rearing practices.
New health threats and their impacts are illustrated by events such as the 2001 anthrax letters in the United States, which showed the social and economic chaos that bioterrorism can cause, the emergence of SARS in Asia in 2003, which drained billions of dollars from Asian economies, and the illegal dumping of chemical waste in Ivory Coast in 2006, which showed that not only the global movement of people, but also that of products can have serious health consequences.
However, ‘known’ diseases may also become major health threats. Influenza, or flu, continues to spread around the world in seasonal epidemics. Though avian flu has not yet mutated into a form that spreads easily from person to person, this could happen and lead to a worldwide epidemic. Cases of drug-resistant tuberculosis have appeared that do not respond to traditional treatment. Polio was nearly eradicated, but there is a need to remain alert and prepared to react to any outbreak or mutation of the virus.
The WHO recommends actions such as stronger international disease control programs, open sharing of know-how, technologies and materials, increased resources and full implementation of international health regulations in order to achieve the highest possible level of global public health security.
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