WHO head warns of future rising tide of new diseases

Margaret Chan

The head of the World Health Organization recently warned that infectious diseases will spread more easily in the future.

Director-General of the WHO Dr. Margaret Chan said that globalization, changing lifestyles and rising population densities will give a boost to communicable diseases. Chan made the comments during a trip to her native Hong Kong, according to TheAustralian.com.au.

“The future looks very bright for microbes, not so good for humanity,” Chan said, TheAustralian.com.au reports. “Given this unstable and unpredictable situation, only one generalization is possible – there will definitely be more new diseases capable of causing outbreaks in humans.”

Chan said most new diseases enter the human population through animals, a process called zoonosis. She said as humans disturb the environment to a greater extent, there are more chances new diseases will infect humans. Nearly 70 percent of infectious diseases found in the last three decades have come from animals.

“Constant mutation and adaptation are survival mechanisms of the microbial world, these organisms are well equipped to take advantage of every opportunity to jump the species barrier,” Chan said, TheAustralian.com.au reports.

She suggested that Asia faces a particularly high risk for the development of new zoonotic diseases.

“Asian people, for cultural reason, live close to chickens and pigs…and some Asians like exotic meat…We should take lessons…after SARS and bird flu,” Chan said, SCMP.com reports.

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