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The National Academies: What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

What You Need To Know About Infectious Disease

Global Surveillance

Just as national surveillance is critical to controlling outbreaks within a nation, global surveillance is a significant component to responding to infectious disease worldwide. Among the strongest measures promoting worldwide infectious disease surveillance are the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) revised International Health Regulations, which entered into force in 2005. These require WHO member states to report certain diseases and outbreaks that may represent public health emergencies of international concern to the WHO and to strengthen their capacities for public health surveillance, diagnosis, and response. In 2015, however, only one-third of member states reported that they were compliant with these regulations, part of a larger problem of the inability to enforce or incentivize coordinated international surveillance of potential health risks.
By identifying viruses, bacteria, and parasites in animals where they naturally live, and monitoring those organisms as they move from animals into people, it may be possible to prevent deadly new infections of animal origin from entering and racing through human populations.
Comprehensive efforts currently in place include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, an integrated and comprehensive partnership of local, national, and global health authorities. This division works to prevent, detect, and contain infectious diseases in countries of origin and at U.S. ports of entry. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) also has been at the forefront of international surveillance by developing a framework for key activities to be carried out by public-sector veterinarians, diagnostic laboratories, animal owners, forest wardens, hunters, and other stakeholders and nature users. 
 
Technological advances in disease surveillance and detection such as regional syndromic surveillance, bioinformatics, and rapid diagnostic methods have strengthened infectious disease control and prevention efforts. The global response to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), for example, was triggered by a report posted to the Program for Monitoring Emerging Diseases—or ProMED-mail—a global electronic reporting system for outbreaks of emerging infectious diseases and toxins.
 
Other networks are beginning to listen in on what scientists call “viral chatter”—the seemingly commonplace transmission of animal viruses to humans in parts of the world where the two populations overlap: for example, live-animal markets or urban areas carved out of tropical rainforests. By identifying virusesbacteria, and parasites in animals where they naturally live, and monitoring those organisms as they move from animals into people, it may be possible to prevent deadly new infections of animal origin from entering and racing through human populations. The One Health Initiative, a worldwide movement to forge collaborations among physicians, veterinarians, and other related professions, is an example of efforts to improve communication about human and animal diseases.

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Disease Watchlist

What do you know about infectious disease?

True or False: Thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that was used in some vaccines and other products, has been shown to present a risk to human health.

  • Sorry, that’s incorrect.

    The use of thimerosal has been an object of controversy, with some arguing that the substance caused autism in children. However, extensive independent research has presented no convincing evidence of harm associated with the low levels of thimerosal previously present in vaccines.

  • Correct!

    The use of thimerosal has been an object of controversy, with some arguing that the substance caused autism in children. However, extensive independent research has presented no convincing evidence of harm associated with the low levels of thimerosal previously present in vaccines.

Infectious Disease Defined

Suburbanization

The process of land conversion and development around the periphery of major cities.

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