Press Release No 37
11 May 1998
DIRECTOR-GENERAL WELCOMES G-8 SUPPORT FOR WHO'S COMMUNICABLE DISEASE SURVEILLANCE
"The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes the commitment of the G-8 to controlling and reducing the surge of communicable diseases, and the confidence placed in WHO to execute this task," said Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, WHO Director-General, in Geneva today.
At a meeting of the Group of Eight foreign ministers which concluded in London on Saturday, 9 May, ministers from the world's eight largest economies confirmed that "experts from G-8 countries and WHO will meet later this month to review current surveillance systems throughout the world and examine options for assisting WHO as it helps to develop global surveillance networks for infectious and parasitic diseases."
"This is the first time that the G-8 has recognized the leading role WHO has to play in the surveillance and control of infectious and parasitic diseases and recommended that it and other bodies assist WHO in its efforts to tackle this problem," commented Dr Nakajima.
G-8 foreign ministers stressed that "the impact of infectious and parasitic diseases continues to cause concern. The G-8 is committed to helping countries respond to these challenges, for example through strengthening national health sectors, improving surveillance capacity, developing strategies to reduce the threat of antimicrobial drug resistance through suitable drug use policies and development of alternative interventions."
Already, several surveillance systems regularly collect data on communicable and zoonotic diseases for regular feedback and action within WHO. These systems are being strengthened and expanded. One example is the Influenza Network which collects information from over 130 participating laboratories worldwide. The data from strains isolated during the preceding 12-month period is analyzed each year in February and is used to decide on the composition of the influenza vaccine for the coming influenza season.
Monitoring and surveillance systems also exist or are being developed to cover other infectious and parasitic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Ebola haemorrhagic fever and meningitis and, according to Dr Nakajima, "At WHO we fully agree with the G-8's concern over the continued impact of infectious and parasitic diseases, including malaria, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis and intestinal worm infections. Parasitic diseases control is one of WHO's priorities and at the same time one of the most difficult to accomplish. We will continue to assist countries in the development of surveillance systems for any and all infectious and parasitic diseases which are major public health concerns, as forewarning and better epidemiological data are two of the best means of limiting their impact."
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