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Source: Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Not only the COVID-19 epidemic, the world is also facing the risk of emergence and transmission of emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) which are on the rise and stem from human-animal-ecosystem interactions and have the potential to cause immeasurable consequences to human health and the socio-economic development of all nations over the world.

Since the first case of SARS-CoV-2 virus was discovered in Wuhan (China) at the end of 2019, the world has recorded more than 78 million cases of COVID-19 and over 1.72 million related deaths.

In Vietnam, as of December 25, there have been 1,433 patients infected with COVID-19, of which 1,281 recovered and 35 died. Thanks to the participation of the whole political system and efforts from the health sector in the prevention and control of the epidemic, up to this point, Vietnam has basically been successful in controlling COVID-19. The international community has highly appreciated Vietnam and considered the country as a model for countries around the world to learn from.

The world has not only been faced with COVID-19 epidemic, with its complicated and unpredictable developments. Over the past ten years, there have been a series of EIDs, with high morbidity and mortality, concentrated in many countries in Europe, Asia and Africa. Of concern, up to about 70% of EIDs originate from animals.

According to incomplete statistics, there are currently more than 200 diseases transmitted from animals to humans worldwide, and this risk will continue to increase, posing a major threat to public health.

In recent years, the Western Pacific region has been considered a place prone to dangerous EIDs outbreaks such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), influenza A/H7N9, influenza A/H5N1 and influenza A/H5N6. In addition, dengue caused by Ebola virus is no longer a disease of Africa but has become a global threat. In the Southeast Asia, the rise of some EIDs threaten the health of millions of people.

Vietnam is currently identified as one of the global “hotspots” with a very high risk of the emergence of agents of EIDs because of the habit of living near poultry and livestock, not to mention living and eating habits which are also potential risks to increase the spread of diseases from animals to humans.

The country has recorded infections of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and avian influenza A/H5N1, with a high mortality rate. Not only that, Vietnam must also face a number of infectious diseases that have been circulating for a long time such as rabies, malaria and dengue fever.

Experts and scientists in the field of preventive medicine said that the process of globalisation and urbanisation is taking place strongly with human exchange by modern transport means offering an opportunity for emerging disease outbreaks from animals at present or occurring in the future.

Even though a disease arises outside borders, it can be a threat to any nation. Therefore, effective prevention and control of zoonotic diseases not only help protect human health and domestic animals and stabilise the socio-economic situation of each country, but also contribute to ensuring global health security.

According to Vietnamese Health Minister Nguyen Thanh Long, being aware of the importance of the above problem and the need to join hands of countries around the world in epidemic prevention, a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on December 7, 2020, unanimously approved Resolution A/RES/ 75/27 to observe International Day of Epidemic Preparedness on December 27 each year.

This is the first resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in this regard, and the first resolution proposed, negotiated and successfully promoted by Vietnam. The resolution calls on all the member states of the United Nations, organisations within the system of the United Nations, other international and regional organisations, the private sector and political and social organisations, non-governmental organisations, research institutes, individuals and other stakeholders to observe the annual International Day of Epidemic Preparedness, aimed at emphasising the importance of prevention, preparing and cooperating to respond to epidemics.

The initiative launched by Vietnam has received wide support from member countries of the United Nations due to its timely appearance and has won the attention of the international community, substantially contributing to the prevention of COVID-19, as well as other diseases in the world that have appeared or will appear in the future.

As a responsible member country for international issues, in response to the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness (December 27), the health sector of Vietnam needs to continue to review and acknowledge existing problems, especially in responding to threats to public health and global health issues.

Vietnam needs to prepare a comprehensive, capable, ready, proactive, self-reliant and sustainable health system to cope with the risks posed by the epidemics, while building a preventive system for infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, mental health and rehabilitation, targeting specific population groups such as children, women and the elderly.

At the same time, it should continue to innovate in the fields of medical finance and health insurance, as well as applying information technology in epidemic prevention and control, while further strengthening cooperation with foreign countries and international communities in preventing and combating zoonotic diseases and other diseases, aiming for a safer and more secure world against diseases in the future.

December 27 was chosen as the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness because it is the birthday of the French biologist Louis Pasteur, one of the first to lay the foundations for preventive medicine. His research on the cause of diseases and on making vaccines has been and continues to save many generations around the world.

MIL OSI Asia Pacific News