We are dealing with two new diseases right now.
Human infections with a novel coronavirus, from the same family as SARS, were first detected last year in the Eastern Mediterranean Region. To date, 41 cases, including 20 deaths, have been reported.
Though the number of cases remains small, limited human-to-human transmission has occurred and health care workers have been infected.
At the end of March this year, China reported the first-ever human infections with the H7N9 avian influenza virus. Within three weeks, more than 100 additional cases were confirmed. Although the source of human infection with the virus is not yet fully understood, the number of new cases dropped dramatically following the closing of live bird markets.
I thank China for collecting and communicating such a wealth of information, and for collaborating so closely with WHO. Chinese officials have promptly traced, monitored, and tested thousands of patient contacts, including hundreds of health care workers.
At present, human-to-human transmission of the virus is negligible. However, influenza viruses constantly reinvent themselves. No one can predict the future course of this outbreak.
These two new diseases remind us that the threat from emerging and epidemic-prone diseases is ever-present. Constant mutation and adaptation are the survival mechanisms of the microbial world. It will always deliver surprises.
Going forward, we must maintain a high level of vigilance. I cannot overemphasize the importance of immediate and fully transparent reporting to WHO, and of strict adherence to your obligations set out in the International Health Regulations.
As was the case ten years ago, the current situation demands collaboration and cooperation from the entire world. A threat in one region can quickly become a threat to all.
via World Health Organization Annual Meeting: New Flu, Coronavirus Urgent Priorities | Wired Science | Wired.com.