Late Breaking News
Significant Weaknesses in Ability to Prevent and Implement Early Detection of H1N1
WASHINGTON, DC—There are significant weaknesses in the global health community’s ability to prevent and implement early detection of species-crossing microbes, such as the 2009 H1N1 virus, according to a report released last month by the Institute of Medicine. The report provides a detailed plan for establishing and funding a comprehensive, globally coordinated system to identify novel zoonotic disease threats as early as possible to help mitigate loss of human and animal life.
One of the major problems in the current global surveillance effort are the changes occurring in developing countries. There is an increase in the need for meat in those developing countries, resulting in an increase in animal production in countries that are lacking in proper animal production management.
In those countries, human populations and urban centers are expanding, with housing and agriculture competing with existing wildlife habitat,” the report states. “The movement of goods and people across borders—such as trade in food animals and exotic pets, international travel, and the movement of refugees into compromised living conditions—has increased the risk of disease spread.”
When changing wildlife migration patterns and an increase in precipitation are added, this can lead to an increase in insect-borne and water-borne diseases, which can then present the potential to create zoonotic disease hotspots in areas of the world that do not have a highly advanced disease surveillance system.
Adding to the problem, because global surveillance relies on local and national participation, any adverse consequence of reporting an outbreak might make local and national authorities reticent to participate. If the results of reporting an outbreak are international health and economic consequences, such as trade sanctions, travel warnings, animal culling, and declining public confidence in products, such as with swine during the advent of swine flu, then a country’s economic fears might trump their fear of an epidemic.
Because the U.S. is a leader in disease surveillance and has a considerable stake in identifying and preventing the spread of zoonotic diseases, the report recommends it spearhead global surveillance efforts. The IoM committee made 12 recommendations in the report, categorizing them by priority and category.