Infectious diseases are – still – a global challenge

Despite the many advances of modern medicine, infectious diseases remain a threat to people's lives and health in all parts of the world. Researchers are battling, for example, highly infectious viruses, infected foods and multi-resistant bacteria that spread infections across borders.

[Translate to English:] Gode isolationsfaciliteter er vigtige for at begrænse spredning af de nye højsmitsomme infektionssygdomme. Foto: Lars Kruse/AU Kommunikation.

SARS, swine flu, malaria, tuberculosis and dengue fever. These are just some of the infectious diseases claiming human lives and challenging doctors and scientists all over the world:

"The new infectious diseases are a global challenge which isn't going away. This is due, among other things, to the fact that the viruses we know mutate and become resistant to drugs, which means that we do not always have the right weapon to control them," says Christian Wejse. He continues:

"We know that serious infectious diseases such as the swine flu in 2009 emerge from time to time. Before the summer holidays, we had a new outbreak of a SARS-like virus in Saudi Arabia resembling the virus which caused a panic in 2003. It is therefore important that we always have the latest knowledge on how best to treat and contain this type of extremely infectious disease."

High risk of infection

Being infected with a serious infectious disease is not only serious for the patient concerned. Often the risk of infection is high. During the SARS epidemic in 2003, for example, a single patient infected half his fellow passengers on a flight to Toronto. Good isolation facilities are therefore important to preventing the infection of other patients and hospital staff and limit epidemics.

"The risk of infection is extremely high in some of these diseases. It is therefore extremely important that we have the necessary isolation facilities, so we can prevent local epidemics," says Christian Wejse.

Diseases crossing borders

Well-known infectious diseases also remain a source of widespread illness and death worldwide. According to the WHO, in recent years approx. 50-100 million people have contracted dengue fever each year, approx. 219 million malaria and 9 million people tuberculosis.

Even though many of these very serious infectious diseases are not that widespread in the western world, according to Christian Wejse, there is every reason to pay close attention to these developments:

"We are travelling more and often further away than previously, and our food is often imported from more or less exotic destinations. From a health perspective, globalisation has, unfortunately, led to a greater risk of viruses spreading to a larger area and to larger populations," says Christian Wejse.

"At the moment, we are for example seeing cases of multi-resistant tuberculosis. This is a growing problem in, for example, Eastern Europe. With a more open society comes the risk of more diseases, and this must be at the front of our minds at all times."

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On 5-8 September, Aarhus University (in collaboration with Aarhus University Hospital) is holding the largest Nordic congress on infectious diseases under the theme 'Nordic perspectives on global and emergent infections'.

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Further information

Associate Professor and medical doctor Christian Wejse
Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Infectious Diseases
Tel. +45 2012 4958