In recent years WHO’s Western Pacific Region has experienced significant outbreaks of novel infectious diseases and other outbreak-prone diseases. These outbreaks have revealed weaknesses in the public health infrastructure of many countries and areas in the Region.
Early detection and reporting of such events is a crucial step towards their rapid containment. It is the best way to minimize their negative public health, social and economic impact. However, disease surveillance systems in many countries and areas are not fully established and do not always function well as early warning systems. As a result, the capacity to detect such outbreak-prone diseases, particularly emerging diseases, in a timely manner remains suboptimal. Also, many countries and areas in the Region are not well prepared to respond to infectious disease outbreaks because of understaffed, poorly trained health workforces, and the lack of capacity for reliable laboratory diagnosis, investigation and control of the outbreaks.
From SARS, in particular, we learnt that communicable diseases could spread rapidly across the border in this era of globalization, making international collaboration and prompt, transparent information-sharing critical to control their spread.
Infectious disease outbreaks have substantial negative economic impact on tourism, travel and trade, as well as causing significant political and social disruption. Honest communication about the threats before, during and after such a situation with the public, media and other stakeholders is a key element of outbreak response and impact mitigation.
WHO is striving to increase its capacity to work with Member States and other international technical agencies to enhance preparedness for emerging and outbreak-prone diseases. WHO will continue to mobilize international cooperation and support for key areas such as risk assessment and management, case management, epidemiology, public health, diagnostics, and verification of results, laboratory biosafety, infection control, logistics, risk communication and other specialty areas.