With an estimated 75 per cent of new infectious diseases in humans coming from animals and two new animal-to-human diseases expected to emerge each year, a United Nations-backed health conference in Viet Nam today wrapped up with an agreement to keep a close eye on new diseases that can jump species and cross borders.
“We are better prepared for pandemics than ever before. But there is more to be done and we must stay alert for new threats that may be round the corner,” David Nabarro, UN System Influenza Coordinator, told senior officials from more than 70 countries at today’s closing ceremony, a smaller than expected turnout as a result of the recent volcanic ash clouds over Europe and an earthquake in western China.
The two-day meeting of the Seventh International Ministers Conference on Animal and Pandemic Influenza – organized around the theme “The Way Forward” – led to the creation of the so-called Hanoi Declaration.
The document proposed national measures to more quickly identify new diseases that may cross from animals to humans, and to deploy public health measures promptly against outbreaks, including effective communication between professionals and public, and stronger public health and veterinary systems.
It called for focused action at the interface between human, animal and environmental health systems, as well as continued efforts to reduce the extent of H5N1 avian flu and the H1N1 pandemic influenza.
“Capacities for countries to work together in response to threats of avian and pandemic influenza have advanced in the last five years: the conference helped to identify areas on which we need to focus to ensure a secure future in the face of emerging diseases,” Dr. Nabarro said in a statement released today.
The conference was hosted by the Government of Viet Nam, and co-organized by the United States and the European Union, in partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Organization for Animal Health, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank.