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From Staff Reports
This year’s World Health Organization (WHO) World Health Report warns that brand-new – and still-emerging – infectious diseases are quickly traversing the globe, a reality that poses a threat to the public health and economic vitality of countries around the world. Experts say that the best way to attack this problem is through the best-organized, closest system of cooperation in global history. But that need comes at a time when global tensions could make such collaboration a significant challenge, experts say.
that incubated inside an unsuspecting airline passenger, or via a stowaway insect deep in the aircraft’s cargo hold.
With the “sheer size of the problem, no single country or agency can handle the next pandemic single-handedly," Dr. Chan told VOAnews.com. "And that calls for international collaboration, global solidarity and collective defense system…But, if we implemented the international health regulation…the world stands a better chance to defend itself against a future risk coming from outbreaks. And, I am confident that with better preparedness, we will mitigate the negative health impacts from outbreaks."
The WHO World Health Report report found that new diseases are now emerging at an unprecedented average rate of one per year. Indeed, since 1967, the report says that at least 39 new diseases have developed. These include HIV/AIDS, Ebola hemorrhagic fever, Marburg fever and SARS. Indeed, just this past week, The International Herald Tribune reported that a virulent swine virus is “sweeping” China’s pig population – causing pork prices to spike, and spawning fears of a pandemic that could race through this huge country’s pig farms. Although meat prices across China have jumped an average of 50% or more in the past year – part of a broad advance in prices that the country faces across all fronts – pork prices have skyrocketed 86%, and the sweeping outbreak of the swine virus is clearly part of the reason.
But the WHO’s Dr. Chan says that the greatest threat to humans around the world is posed by a future pandemic of avian influenza, or bird flu, which literally has the potential to kill millions of people over a very short period of time.
Indeed, Indonesia's Health Ministry just this week said that a Bali woman had died of bird flu – the second confirmed death from this virus on the popular Indonesian resort island. The woman, who died Tuesday, had been in contact with poultry before becoming ill, authorities there said. If the WHO confirms bird flu as the cause of death, the Indonesia death toll from this disease would stand at 84. Worldwide since 2003, nearly 200 people have died from bird flu – the vast majority of them in Asia.
The virulent strain of the bird-flu virus – known as H5N1 [see article link below] – is transmitted chiefly by contact with infected animals, but authorities have long feared it could mutate into a strain that would be easily passed between people, like the conventional flu virus that makes its rounds through the workplace each winter. This form off the bird flu, however, is much, much worse: It kills about 60% of the people it infects, and health experts say that an outbreak could result in the deaths of between 5 million and 150 million people worldwide.
Dr. Chan said “changes in the way humanity inhabits the planet have created multiple opportunities for new diseases to emerge, and for older diseases to resurge, or become established on new continents. Population growth, rapid urbanization, intensive farming practices, environmental degradation, and the misuse of antibiotics have placed enormous pressure on the microbial world.”
- Money Morning Report:
Virulent Pig Virus Threatens China, Global Health.
- International Herald Tribune:
Virus Spreading Alarm and Pig Disease in China.
- Money Morning Report:
As China Soars, Prices Are Rising More Than Most Realize.
HN51 Bird Flu.