From severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to avian influenza A (H7N9), the twentieth century saw the emergence of many new diseases, which caught the attention of many. This disease – called emerging infectious disease (EIDs) – is a particular concern in public health. Not only because the disease can cause death in humans in large numbers is currently spreading, but because it also has a huge social and economic impact in today’s interconnected world. For example, the estimated direct cost incurred by SARS in Canada and Asian countries is approximately 50 billion U.S. dollars. In addition, the impact of this new infectious disease is relatively greater in developing countries that have fewer resources. In the last 30 years, more than 30 EIDs have appeared. Asia, unfortunately, is often its epicenter.
EIDs are diseases that appear and attack a population for the first time, or have existed before but are increasing very quickly, either in terms of the number of new cases within a population, or their spread to new geographic areas. Also grouped in EIDs are diseases that have occurred in an area in the past, then decreased or have been controlled, but then reported again in increasing numbers. Sometimes an old disease appears in a new clinical form, which can be more severe or fatal. This disease is calledre-emerging disease, thelatest example is chikungunya in India.
Most emerging and re-emerging diseases are zoonotic, which means they emerge from an animal and cross species barriers and infect humans. So far about 60% of infectious diseases in humans have been identified, and about 75% of EIDs, which have attacked humans in the past three decades, come from animals. Some WHO countries in Southeast Asia have conditions that invite the emergence of this disease, many of which are diseases that can be deadly and spread quickly. Scientific research on 335 new diseases between 1940 and 2004 indicates that it is most likely that some regions of the world experienced the emergence of these EIDs. Some of the global“hotspots”for EIDs are countries associated with the Indo-Ganges Plains and Mekong Watersheds. Nipah virus, Crimean-Congo dengue fever and avian influenza (H5N1) are examples of diseases that have emerged recently and given up the WHO Southeast Asia Region.
There are many factors that accelerate the emergence of new diseases, because these factors cause infectious agents to develop into new ecological forms, in order to reach and adapt to new host, and in order to spread more easily to new host. These factors include urbanization and destruction of native habitats, which cause animals and humans to live in close proximity, climate change and ecosystem change; changes in the host population of reservoirs or intermediate insect vectors; and microbial genetic mutations. As a result the impact of new diseases is difficult to predict but can be significant, since humans may have little or no immunity to the disease.
Although a strong public health system is a requirement to combat KLB EIDs, it can also significantly disrupt the system. Therefore strengthening preparedness, surveillance, risk assessment, risk communication, laboratory facilities and response capacity in the Region is very important. And equally important is building partners among the animal health, agriculture, forestry and health sectors at the national, regional and global levels.
This website was created intended to be a source of information on selected endemic, emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases and zoonoosis, which attack countries in the region, or have potential threats to the region. This website is expected to be especially useful for non-specialist readers such as decision makers, the media, and the general public.