New diseases need int'l fightback

More than 100 health, livestock and environment experts from 17 countries are discussing ways to promote collaboration in disease prevention in the face of several newly emerging diseases at a three-day workshop that began in Hanoi on October 13.

They agreed that increased collaboration was needed to prevent and fight the spread of diseases like avian influenza H5N1, H7N9, SARS and Ebola.

"We should mobilise society as a whole to participate in activities that manage and minimise disease-causing risks," said Tran Dac Phu, director of the Health Ministry's Preventive Medicine Department.

Phu called for greater co-opearation and co-ordination between nations, regions and continents in handling diseases, saying this was an urgent need in the context of the rapid spread of Ebola virus and deaths in the West Africa region.

new diseases need int'l fightback hinh 0

The workshop is part of the One Health initiative, a multidisciplinary approach to achieve optimal health for people, animals and the environment through local, regional and global research collaboration.

Proponents of the concept believe that the synergism achieved will "advance healthcare for the 21st century and beyond by accelerating biomedical research discoveries, enhancing public health efficacy, expeditiously expanding the scientific knowledge base, and improving medical education and clinical care."

Nguyen Thu Yen of the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology said that Vietnam faces many challenges in disease prevention due to a lack of clear mechanisms and inconsistent collaboration at local levels.

"Collaboration in the prevention and control of infectious diseases is largely passive and happens only at the national level. Awareness and involvement of local authorities in the prevention and control of zoonosis (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to human) in most areas remains low and limited," said Yen.

The workshop will focus discussions on surveillance and research at the interface between wildlife, domestic animals and people, as also challenges around anti microbial resistance.

Participants noted that the One Health concept has gained much more attention in Southeast Asia because of the rise in cross-species epidemics such as SARS and Avian Influenza.

With 70% of emerging diseases being of animal origin, this has become a crucial issue for the region, given its rapid urbanisation and dramatic expansion of livestock production, they said.