Russia: More Effort Needed To Stem Infectious Diseases
MOSCOW, Apr 26, 2006 (DJCS via Comtex) --
Russia's chief epidemiologist called Wednesday for increased efforts to stem the spread of infectious diseases and urged governments to start preparing for an expected pandemic of bird flu.
Gennady Onishchenko urged the international community to pool resources to combat diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, HIV/AIDS and bird flu, which he said is expected to develop into a pandemic that will significantly affect Russia.
"I would like to hope that the question of infectious diseases would not only remain on the G-8 agenda, but would dominate it," Onishchenko told a Moscow-based international conference of epidemiologists and other officials held in preparation for the Group of Eight leading nations summit, which Russia will host in July.
Russia has made infectious diseases one of the summit's three main topics, along with energy and education.
Russia recorded its first cases of bird flu last summer, and the virus has spread since then to other parts of the country. No human infection has been recorded in Russia.
"No human being on this globe has immunity to a new emerging strain of this virus," World Health Organization assistant director general Margaret Chan told the conference.
Onishchenko was optimistic that the virus, which he expects to hit Russia this summer with the return of migrating birds, would remain among the animal population and would not affect humans.
"We are confident to a high degree that what you are most afraid (of) won't happen," he said.
Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak also stressed the need to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS. Russia has one of the fastest spreading AIDS epidemics in Europe, with over 355,000 Russians officially registered as HIV-positive. Experts believe the true number infected to top 1 million.
Storchak said the country's economic growth could slow, or even decline, dramatically if the disease continues to spread at the current pace.