- he world's future prosperity is under
threat from a handful of infectious diseases which account for 50% of deaths
among children or young adults, says the World Health Organisation (WHO).
- A report says AIDS, tuberculosis (TB),
measles, malaria, diarrhoeal diseases such as dysentery and cholera, and
acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia were responsible for 90%
of all deaths due to infectious diseases in 1998.
- And the WHO warned that the world has
dangerously underestimated its ability to control dangerous bacteria and
viruses such as these.
- With bacteria gaining extra resistance
to treatments such as antibiotics, and world travel on the increase, greater
investment is needed to halt their spread.
- Dr David Heymann, the WHO's executive
director, said: "We are moving towards a future full of new opportunities
for diseases to quickly spread from one continent to another.
- "Simultaneously, drug resistance
is sending us back in history to a time when we lacked medicines to cure
- Societies crippled by disease
- Economic development, particularly in
poorer countries, was being hamstrung by the loss of children and young
workers to these diseases, said the WHO.
- Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, WHO director-general
said: "The World Health Organisation is issuing a wake-up to the world's
governments, decision-makers and the private sector to take action against
infectious diseases before it is too late.
- "Infectious diseases are causing
half of all deaths among families and young labourers, farmers, supervisors
and shop owners around the world.
- "How can anyone reach their economic
potential with this burden?"
- Although these diseases are major killers
in developing countries, evidence of the resurgance of bacteria and viruses
is emerging even in the UK.
- New vigillance for TB
- The Public Health Laboratory Service
(PHLS), recently set up an enhanced surveillance system to find out more
about cases of TB.
- The disease, rampant in the UK at the
end of the Second World War, has fallen to between 5,000 and 6,000 cases
a year, but experts are even concerned by this low level.
- Epidemics of measles killed or disabled
thousands of British children a year until recent years, when innovations
such as the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine, virtually eradicated
- And while food poisoning cases have soared
over the last decade, even the most powerful bacteria, such as E.coli 0157,
are generally only fatal in the elderly or among those with pre-existing
- However, the UK government is acting
to try and prevent bacteria gaining extra resistance to antibiotics.
- A PHLS spokesman said: "We need
to use antibiotics carefully in order to conserve their power for the future.
- "Infections like MRSA (Methycillin
Resistant Staphyloccus Aureus), are hospital bugs rather than community
bugs, but are still a problem."