WHO prioritises world Epidemic Threats

A panel of experts met at WHO Geneva this week to prioritise the top five to ten emerging pathogens likely to cause severe outbreaks in the near future, and for which few or no medical countermeasures exist.

These diseases are a blueprint for R&D preparedness to help control potential future outbreaks.

The initial list, to be reviewed annually, comprises:

Three other diseases were designated as ‘serious’, requiring action by WHO to promote R&D as soon as possible; these were chikungunya, severe fever with thrombocytopaenia syndrome, and Zika.

Other diseases with epidemic potential – such as HIV/AIDSTuberculosisMalaria,Avian influenza and Dengue – were not included in the list because there are major disease control and research networks for these infections, and an existing pipeline for improved interventions.

Travel history is essential – not just for Ebola

There are many lethal, more frequently occurring diseases than Ebola, entering our countries.

Recently, on the chat room of USA Assoc. for Professionals in Infection Control & Epidem (APIC), members have asked how much longer hospitals should ask patients about overseas travel (to alert staff for Ebola).

Malaria is another reason why travel history must CONTINUE to be sought.

Several decades ago as a Malariologist in a developing country, I strove to remind colleagues in developed countries to ALWAYS ask a travel history when any patient presented with fever, chills or headache (FC&H). I have seen a patient walk in unassisted with FC&H at 5pm, and die from P. falciparum cerebral malaria at midnight.

The deaths of two tourists from cerebral malaria in a Springfield Missouri motel last month shows how rapidly and insidiously this disease can kill travelers. And underpins why travel history is essential if patients present with fever to an emergency dept.

In 2011 USA hit an all-time high with nearly 2,000 cases of malaria being diagnosed in travellers.  In 2012 1,687 cases of Malaria were diagnosed in USA, with 1,683 (99.8%) occurring in travelers. Six of the cases died.

Ebola pales into the background in the face of other imported diseases for which a travel history is needed for diagnosis.