8 February 2001
WHO OPENS AN OFFICE IN LYON (FRANCE) TO HELP DEVELOPING COUNTRIES DETECT AND CONTROL EPIDEMICS AND EMERGING DISEASES
"Communicable diseases, especially those that can cause epidemics, often strike developing countries which lack the capacity and experience to rapidly diagnose and respond to outbreaks," said Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO at the inauguration of the Office. "The main mission of the new WHO Office in Lyon is to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to contain epidemics and emerging diseases, including the detection of drug resistance. By doing this it will contribute to global health security", she added.
Laboratories have a crucial role to play. They have to provide quick and reliable information on the causative agent of the epidemic, the most effective course of treatment for patients, and which measures must be taken to prevent the spread of such epidemics.
The Office of Lyon will help with the technical training of specialists from all over the world who work to control epidemics. When they return to their countries, they will be better able to contribute effectively to rapid detection of the main epidemic and emerging diseases.
Such diseases know no frontiers. Because of the mobility of people and goods, a communicable disease occurring in one country can, the next day, find itself transmitted to another anywhere in the world. It is therefore vital that the available information on any new epidemic rapidly be communicated to scientists and public health officials throughout the world.
WHO helps strengthen national security by working on the rapid detection of epidemics, improving epidemic control measures and fostering timely dissemination of information available at the national level. The WHO Office in Lyon will play an essential part in setting up a network of national laboratories in developing countries with the help of modern means of communication.
Beginning in April 2001, a group of laboratory specialists from several developing countries will take an advanced training course at the WHO Office in Lyon. The training will include how to diagnose the main epidemic diseases (cholera, yellow fever and various types of meningitis and hepatitis) that still contribute to poverty in the developing countries, and also emerging diseases such as Ebola and Marburg haemorrhagic fevers. The course will also cover analysis and monitoring of infectious agents that are resistant to antimicrobials - a phenomenon increasingly occurring in both developed and developing countries- which is a serious problem for treatment of patients.
The Office was inaugurated today in the presence of many eminent figures, including Mr Charles Josselin, Minister-Delegate for Cooperation and French-speaking Communities, Mrs Dominique Gillot, Secretary of State for Health and the Disabled, Mr Raymond Barre, Mayor of Lyon, Dr Christophe Mérieux, Administrator of the Marcel Mérieux Foundation and Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO. The Director of the Office is Dr Diego Buriot, a WHO physician with considerable experience in the public health problems of developing countries.
The decision to choose Lyon as the site for the Office is justified by the excellent reputation of this regional capital in the fields of medicine and biotechnology and the close collaboration that already exists between WHO and the local scientific community in the form of several WHO collaborating centres. The presence of the Marcel Mérieux Foundation, a long-standing partner of WHO in public health action for developing countries and the proximity of this city to Geneva are also important reasons to locate this Office there. WHO is already present through its International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).
According to WHO, in 1998 alone, communicable diseases caused the death of over 13 million people world-wide, mainly in the poorest populations of developing countries. Over the last two decades more than 30 new communicable diseases have been identified, and several diseases that were thought almost extinct have resurfaced. The development of antimicrobial resistance in recent years is another major challenge to public health in years to come.
For further information please contact Mr Gregory Hartl, WHO Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva. Tel:(+41 22) 791 4458; Fax: (+41 22) 791 4858; E-mail: email@example.com. All WHO Press Releases; Fact Sheets and Features as well as other WHO information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page:http://www.who.int
For information about the WHO Department of Communicable Diseases, Surveillance and Response (CSR), WHO Lyon Office, please contact Dr Diego Buriot, Director. Address; 58 Avenue Debourg, Lyon, France 69007. Tel: (+33) 4 72 71 64 70; Fax: (+33) 4 72 71 64 71; E-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org or by Internet: http://www.who.int/emc/lyon/