Experts Stress Importance of Monitoring Infectious Respiratory Diseases to Prevent Pandemics

Main image to the post Experts Stress Importance of Monitoring Infectious Respiratory Diseases to Prevent Pandemics

Health experts have emphasized the vital role of monitoring infectious respiratory diseases, like influenza and COVID-19, in preventing potential pandemics. Shen Hongbing, the director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, pointed out during an academic conference the rapid transmission and complex clinical symptoms associated with respiratory infections, underscoring the significant burden they pose on society. He noted that infectious respiratory illnesses, including influenza and COVID-19, remain a major challenge with the potential to spark pandemics, necessitating prioritized preparedness efforts.

The global impact of seasonal influenza was highlighted, with approximately 1 billion cases annually, leading to severe cases and related deaths. Shen mentioned that China alone sees a significant number of excess deaths linked to influenza, contributing to a substantial portion of all respiratory illness-related mortalities. The threat of bird flu infecting humans was also highlighted, particularly with subtypes like H5N6 and H9N2 being common over the past five years. Shen stressed the importance of monitoring bird flu outbreaks among poultry and the risk of the virus crossing to other species, calling attention to the complexity of human infections with novel bird flu strains in China.

In terms of COVID-19, Shen mentioned that while there have been occasional upticks in infections, the disease has stabilized domestically since February of the previous year. Liang Wannian, from Tsinghua University's Vanke School of Public Health, identified acute and emerging respiratory infectious diseases as significant challenges. He emphasized the need to focus on preventing and managing diseases transmitted through small respiratory particles and droplets, with particular attention given to the family of coronaviruses, including those responsible for COVID-19, SARS, and MERS.

Health experts also raised concerns about Disease X, a hypothetical pathogen with pandemic potential, highlighting the increasing risk factors like climate change and cross-species pathogen spread. Wang Hesheng, from the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration in China, underlined the importance of enhancing preparedness through multichannel surveillance and early warning systems. He noted China's efforts in setting up an intelligent monitoring system for infectious diseases and emphasized ongoing research to detect novel high-risk pathogens and improve early response capabilities. Global collaboration and coordination were stressed by Ana Maria Henao-Restrepo from the World Health Organization, who emphasized the need for monitoring, characterizing, and contributing to the development of vaccines and treatments for infectious diseases on local, regional, and global scales.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09