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WHO identifies top emerging diseases


 

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The World Health Organization has generated a list of top emerging pathogens likely to cause severe outbreaks in the near future and for which few or no medical countermeasures exist.

The diseases designated by WHO were revealed by the organization last week in a public statement and provide the basis for its ongoing work on a “Blueprint for R&D preparedness” to help control potential future outbreaks. The Blueprint will advocate for the enhancement of the research and development process to develop diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics for the diseases. In addition to jump-starting R&D, WHO said the Blueprint will also consider behavioral interventions to allow the design of better disease control measures.

An image of a decontamination procedure during the 2014 West African Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreak. ©CDC/Athalia Christie

An image of a decontamination procedure during the 2014 West African Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreak.

WHO’s initial list of eight diseases needing urgent attention includes:

Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever

Ebola virus disease

Marburg hemorrhagic fever

Lassa fever

Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)

Nipah virus disease

Rift Valley fever

Three other diseases were designated by WHO as “serious,” requiring attention “as soon as possible”:

Chikungunya

Severe fever with thrombocytopenia syndrome

Zika fever

According to WHO, the list will be reviewed and the prioritization methodology fine-tuned annually or when new diseases emerge.

WHO said other diseases with epidemic potential – such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, avian influenza, and dengue – were not included in the list because there are major disease control and research networks for these infections and an existing pipeline for improved interventions.

rpizzi@frontlinemedcom.com

On Twitter @richpizzi

This article was updated 2/12/16.

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