Emerging infectious diseases: Insights and strategies for prevention and control | Health - Hindustan Times
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Emerging infectious diseases: Insights and strategies for prevention and control

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Sep 14, 2023 10:55 AM IST

Amid the rise of novel pathogens, emergence of drug-resistant strains and changing disease patterns, health experts suggest tips to implement proactive measures

In an era where global health is an ever-evolving landscape, staying informed about emerging infectious diseases is paramount as according to clinical statistics, infectious diseases present notable threats to public health, accounting for nearly 13.7 million deaths globally, with respiratory and bloodstream infections proving the most lethal. Across the course of history, spanning from past pandemics like plague, smallpox and the recent Covid-19 to persistent health challenges like tuberculosis, AIDS and hepatitis, these diseases have imposed substantial clinical burdens while ailments such as malaria, flu and cholera contribute to remarkable annual statistics, underscoring the critical need for a robust and comprehensive public health infrastructure.

Emerging infectious diseases: Insights and strategies for prevention and control (Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash)
Emerging infectious diseases: Insights and strategies for prevention and control (Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Divya Singh, Senior Surgeon at Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital and Director at Maaiya Social Change Front Foundation, shared, “With the rise of novel pathogens, the emergence of drug-resistant strains and changing disease patterns, understanding the origins and dynamics and implementing proactive measures is of utmost importance. Mitigating the dissemination of infectious diseases necessitates a comprehensive approach tailored to the disease type, transmission mode and local circumstances.”

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She suggested, “Vaccination and hygiene practices are the foremost pillars for combating infectious diseases. Practicing proper hand hygiene, maintaining sanitary environments, and creating awareness about hygiene practices and disease transmission empowers individuals to fight against infectious diseases and prevent their spread. In addition to timely detection, responsive action, and robust surveillance systems, isolating infected individuals and implementing quarantine measures can collectively bolster public health resilience and foster a shield against infectious disease proliferation. Remaining up to date with the latest vaccinations and following up with the recurrent yearly vaccinations helps build herd immunity especially for the children, elderly and immunocompromised.”

Asserting that though governments have a responsibility of monitoring and surveillance to catch and detect emerging infections, keeping ourselves vigilant of any emerging symptoms in our neighborhood is the responsibility of every citizen and members of communities. Dr Divya Singh recommended, “Practicing ways to boost immunity and aiding the natural defense of body to fight and ward off infection will aid not just in preventing infectious diseases but long term health and higher immune tolerance too. These include exercise, proper diet, quality sleep, natural immune boosting foods and optimum vitamin, micronutrients and minerals intake.”

Bringing her expertise to the same, Dr Veena Aggarwal, Trustee at Heart Care Foundation of India, echoed, “In our dynamic global environment, emerging infectious diseases pose significant public health risks. Societal, technological and environmental shifts continually influence infectious diseases on a global scale, leading to new disease emergence and the resurgence of existing ones, often in drug-resistant forms. From historical pandemics like plague and smallpox to chronic ailments such as tuberculosis and syphilis, these diseases impose substantial clinical burdens. Malaria, sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, and cholera present staggering annual statistics, emphasizing the necessity for a robust public health framework.”

She highlighted, “Recent statistics witnessed 13·7 million deaths worldwide from infectious syndromes, with respiratory infections and bloodstream infections being the deadliest. According to clinical studies, modern factors, including rapid population growth, urban migration, poverty, international travel, changes in disease-transmitting animal habitats, compromised immunity and alterations in food distribution, are chief contributors to the rise of infectious diseases. Additionally, frequent visits to clinics, hospital stays and being in close contact with healthcare professionals can also elevate the risk of hospital-acquired infections, predominantly bloodstream infections (BSI), pneumonia (e.g., ventilator-associated pneumonia [VAP]), urinary tract infections (UTI) and surgical site infections (SSI). The recent rise in incidences of antibiotic-resistant pathogens caused due to drug overuse is further aggravating the risk and severity of infectious diseases underscoring the urgent need for a comprehensive understanding, proactive prevention, and effective control strategies.”

Dr Veena Aggarwal explained, “Though combating infectious diseases involves a multifaceted approach tailored to disease type, transmission mode, and local conditions, vaccination and good hygiene practices are preliminary steps toward disease control. Regular hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and covering the nose and mouth while sneezing can prevent the transmission of germs. Moreover, access to clean water and adequate sanitation facilities are critical to manage the spread and eliminate disease-causing pathogens. In addition to raising mass awareness, early detection, rapid response, and effective surveillance systems also play a significant role in infectious disease management.”

She concluded, “As new diseases continue to emerge, preemptive action is essential. Establishing vigilant public health systems, international collaboration, research, and information sharing are pivotal in addressing global infectious disease threats. Such collective initiatives hold the potential to yield novel treatments, develop requisite vaccines, and formulate suitable strategies for disease prevention and control, eventually benefiting communities worldwide. Ultimately it boils down to each one practicing one - if we keep ourselves and our surroundings clean, the world will be a more hygienic and liveable place for everyone.”

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