Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Malaysia alert to spread of diseases

NST: The incidence of infectious diseases in the country has been going steadily downwards, but we cannot become complacent.
Reducing their spread was still a serious burden, said director-general of Health Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican.
He attributed the drop to improvements in socio-economic status, good sanitation and safe water, co-ordinated control programmes, better disease surveillance and good interagency collaboration.
"Infectious disease can spread through international borders which are readily interconnected in the globalised world."
He was presenting a paper on "Emerging threats to public health" at the three-day 2nd Asia Pacific Conference on Public Health yesterday.
Globally, about 58 million people a year died from killers like acute respiratory infections, including pneumonia and influenza, AIDS, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, malaria and measles, he said.
The problem of infectious diseases is most severe in the developing world. Children, the elderly, women and those with a weakened immune system are most at risk.
Malaysia’s biggest challenge will be tackling emerging and re-emerging diseases and drug-resistant infections.
Dr Ismail said disease emergence and re-emergence were caused by changes in human demographics and behaviour, technological advances and changes in industry practice, the rapid increase in speed and volume of air travel, economic development and urbanisation.
He said climate and ecosystem changes, microbial mutation and adaptation, inadequate public health capacity for infectious disease control and the use of antibiotics were also contributing factors.
He said diseases passed from animals to humans — zoonotic diseases — were another threat that must be controlled.
"It is important that Malaysians uphold standard practices in food hygiene, hospital infection control, water management and waste disposal.
"Personal hygiene and simple hand washing will prevent infections."

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