Health Experts Come Together to Address Pandemic, Avian Influenza, Outline the Outlook of Infectious Diseases Threats and Strategies for Containment

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- An update on the government's avian and pandemic influenza preparedness efforts was given today by leading infectious disease experts from around the country at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The news conference, sponsored by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID), addressed key issues and developments in the control and prevention of emerging infectious diseases, as well as highlighted global health risks of foodborne and water-related illnesses and the threat of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis.

"Emerging, and in some cases re-emerging, infectious diseases, notably avian and pandemic influenza, pose a very serious threat to the nation's public health," said Susan J. Rehm, MD, NFID medical director and vice chair of the Department of Infectious Disease at the Cleveland Clinic. "As healthcare professionals, we need to continue to identify these threats and take the necessary steps to respond quickly and effectively."

Addressing the prospect of an influenza pandemic, Carole A. Heilman, PhD, director of the division of microbiology and infectious diseases at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services, discussed how NIAID is leading efforts to help bolster the nation's pandemic influenza preparedness, including activities exploring cell-based vaccines; expanding the domestic capacity for influenza vaccines; developing point-of-care diagnostics; supporting influenza antivirals; and advancing surge capacity for producing H5N1 vaccines.

"NIAID is exploring all avenues to ensure that the infrastructure is in place to act on an influenza pandemic in this country," stated Dr. Heilman. NIAID is the lead NIH institute for pandemic influenza preparedness efforts.

Additional topics discussed at the 12th Richard J. Duma/NFID Annual News Conference and Symposium on Infectious Diseases included:

-- New Therapeutic Regimens in the Fight Against Multi-drug Resistant Tuberculosis:  Michael D. Iseman, MD, professor of medicine, National Jewish Medical Center and Research Center in Denver, discussed the threat of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and new therapeutic strategies to help address the growing need to control tuberculosis and reduce barriers to accessing these regimens. "Since the introduction of the fluorquinolones in the 1980's there have been no significant advances in the treatment of tuberculosis," stated Iseman. "With the emergence of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, this is a critical juncture in our efforts to control this disease."

-- Vaccine Financing Issues:  Jerome O. Klein, MD, professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine, discussed the rising costs of vaccines in this country and concerns regarding continued access to safe and effective vaccines.

-- Foodborne and Water-related Diseases: A National and Global Update: James M. Hughes, MD, professor of medicine and public health at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, the director of the Emory Program in Global Infectious Diseases and the Emory Center for Global Safe Water, provided an overview of the increasing prevalence and public health risks of foodborne illnesses caused by a variety of bacteria, viruses and parasites, and water-related diseases associated with drinking water, water not intended for drinking, and recreational water.

Source: National Foundation for Infectious Diseases