Sunday, August 26, 2007

Uganda prepared to contain emerging epidemics, says WHO, via New Vision: Uganda is prepared to handle emerging epidemics, the World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative, Dr. Melville George, said yesterday.

"A few years ago Uganda had an outbreak of Ebola and recently of Marburg Hemorrhagic Fever. "While handling these epidemics, what came out clearly is that Uganda has matured in terms of government capacity to take control of the situation," Dr. Melville said. Referring to the World Health Report 2007, to be launched today, he noted that new diseases were emerging at a historically unprecedented rate of one per year.

…"The world has changed dramatically since 1951. At that time, the disease situation was relatively stable. New diseases were rare," the report stated. "Since then, profound changes have occurred in the way humanity inhabits the planet. The disease situation is anything but stable."

The report attributes the emergence of new diseases to population growth, incursion into previously uninhabited areas, rapid urbanisation, intensive farming practices, environmental degradation and the misuse of antimicrobials. "We have to deal with a lot of new threats. What the World Health Organisation is doing is to put in place measures, and guidelines to manage or reduce those threats and also to support countries put in place capacities to cope," Dr. Melville explained. According to the report, East Africa is prone to pandemics as a result of weather-related events. It refers to Rift Valley Fever, which has hit parts of East Africa as a result of climate change. "From December 1997 to March 1998, the largest outbreak ever reported in East Africa occurred in Kenya, Somalia and the Republic of Tanzania.

…Each country should develop the capacity to detect and respond to emerging epidemics, it concludes. "This entails countries strengthening their health systems and ensuring they have the capacity to prevent and control epidemics that can quickly spread across borders and even across continents."

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