INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, SURVEILLANCE VITAL TO TACKLE NEW DISEASES

KANWAL SALEEM
Feb 04 - 10, 2008

LAHORE: With new diseases emerging at an unprecedented rate, global public health security depends on international cooperation and surveillance more than at any previous time in history, the health professionals warned. They told PAGE that the current bird flu virus, which has so far infected 321 people, killing 194 of them, could mutate to easy human-to-human transmission. The so-called Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-1920, which spread easily between humans, is estimated to have killed from 20 million to 40 million people, they feared.

They stressed the need for stronger health systems and for continued vigilance in managing the risks and consequences of the international spread of polio and the newly emerging strain of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB).

It may be mentioned that since 1967, at least 39 new pathogens have been identified, including HIV, the deadly hemorrhagic Ebola and Marburg fevers, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China in 2003 and spread rapidly as far as Canada, infecting more than 8,000 people; over 800 of them were fatally hit, before it was brought under control.

Other centuries-old threats, such as pandemic influenza, malaria and tuberculosis, continue to pose a threat to health through a combination of mutation, rising resistance to antimicrobial medicines and weak health systems. New threats have also emerged, linked to potential terrorist attacks, chemical incidents and radio-nuclear accidents, they added.

Moreover, a consultant cardiologist at Whipps Cross and St. Bartholomew's Hospital London, UK, Dr. Sandeep Gupta addressed a symposium of doctors in Lahore in which he highlighted the perils of uncontrolled hypertension while elaborating on the most effective treatment options for managing hypertension. The topic of Dr. Gupta's talk was "Destination 120/80, are all ARBs the same? The symposium organised by Sanofi-aventis was chaired by Prof Shahryaar A. Sheikh, President of the World Heart Federation. The Co-chairperson was Dr. Soulat Siddique while Prof. Zubair Akram, Prof. Bilal Zikariah Khan and Prof. Abdul Hafeez Chodhary made up the panel of experts.

Sharing data on the prevalence of hypertension, Dr. Sandeep Gupta elaborated the high burden of hypertension globally, especially in developing countries. He drew attention to the National Health Survey (Pakistan) conducted in 1999, according to which less than 3 percent hypertensive patients in Pakistan are able to achieve their BP goal.

Addressing this alarming figure, Dr Gupta elaborated on current modalities of hypertension management, comparing different Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs) with Irbesartan. The comparative data favored Irbesartan as a better choice to aid hypertensive patients in achieving their BP goals. Irbesartan is an original research molecule of sanofi-aventis.

The panel of experts shared their experiences of blood pressure management. Medical practitioners who attended this academic event greatly appreciated the opportunity to benefit from the knowledge and experience of an internationally renowned expert.

Dr. Sandeep Gupta, who is a leading international figure in the research area of "inflammation and heart diseases' and was awarded a British Heart Foundation (BHF) fellowship, exhorted upon the people to adopt healthy lifestyle to avoid complicated diseases. He also urged the doctors to create awareness among the people about healthy lifestyle so that they could be saved from diseases. Dr Gupta disclosed that the British government is considering launching a scheme under which financial support will be extended to the overweight people to help reduce their weight. He said great responsibility lies on general practitioners (GPs) for creation of a healthy society because they can motivate the family for opting a healthy life style with balanced diet and regular walk.