Infectious diseases in the world

This section provides information about infectious diseases in the world. These diseases could potentially spread internationally through travellers or animals.

The World Health Organization's (WHO) Global Alert and Response system provides information about international disease outbreaks.

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Ebola, avian influenza, polio and MERS are of current public health concern
Avian influenza A (H7N9) continues to affect people
Avian influence (A/H5N1) affected Egypt and Indonesia the most from 2009-2013

Ebola, avian influenza, polio and MERS are of current public health concern

In 2014, four diseases are of particular international public health concern: 

  • Ebola haemorrhagic fever
  • avian influenza
  • polio
  • Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

Table 1 shows the range of infectious disease outbreaks in the world from 2011 to 2013.

Table 1: International infectious disease outbreak, by country, 2011-2013

Vector-borne diseases 2011 2012 2013
Dengue   Europe (Portugal, Madeira)  
Yellow fever Africa (Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Senegal) Africa (Ghana, Cameroon, Sudan, Republic of Congo) Africa (Chad, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon)
Rift Valley fever   Africa (Mauritania)  
West Nile virus Europe    
Hantavirus   United States  
Infectious diseases 2011 2012 2013
Meningococcal disease Africa (Chad) Africa (African Meningitis Belt) Africa (African Meningitis Belt)
Polio  Africa (Cote d’Ivoire, Chad), Asia (Pakistan, China)   Middle East (Syrian Arab Republic)
Hand foot and mouth    Asia (Cambodia)  
Coronavirus   Europe (United Kingdom)  
Measles 

Europe

Regions of the Americas

Africa

   
Viral haemorrhagic fever  2011 2012 2013
Ebola Africa (Uganda) Africa (Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo)  
Marburg   Africa (Uganda)  
Lassa    Africa (Nigeria)  
Avian influenza 2011 2012 2013
H5N1 

Middle East (Egypt)

Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia, Bangladesh)

Middle East (Egypt)

Asia (China, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Hong Kong)

Asia (Cambodia)
H7N9     Asia (China)
Other  2011 2012  2013 
Cholera  Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo)  Africa (Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone)  Central America (Mexico)
E. coli   Europe (Germany)    

Source: World Health Organization [1

Avian influenza A (H7N9) continues to affect people

A disease of concern is avian influenza A (H7N9), which is a novel (new) influenza. 

The first identified case of H7N9 in humans occurred in China in February 2013 [2]. The virus reportedly infected 132 cases in China from February-July in 2013, including 43 subsequent deaths [3]. 

The continuing prevalence of H7 viruses in poultry could potentially lead to person-to-person spread in future [4].

Avian influenza (A/H5N1) affected Egypt and Indonesia the most from 2009-2013

H5N1 is a type of influenza virus that causes disease in birds. Although H5N1 does not infect humans easily, infection in humans can cause severe disease and has a high death rate [5].

Egypt accounted for half of the confirmed avian influenza (A/H5N1) cases from 2009-2013 (Table 2).  Indonesia accounted for 22 percent of the confirmed cases; 89 percent of the cases died. Some countries with H5N1 influenza are either close to or important economic partners of New Zealand. They are also the origin of relatively large numbers of overseas passengers arriving into New Zealand. 

If the H5N1 virus were to change and become easily spread from person to person while retaining its capacity to cause severe disease, the consequences for public health could be very serious [5].

Table 2: Number of confirmed human cases (and deaths) of avian influenza (A/H5N1) reported to the World Health Organization, by country, 2009-2013

Country 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013  Total 2009-2013
Egypt 39 (4)  29 (13)  39 (15)  11 (5)  4 (3) 122 (40) 
Indonesia 21 (19) 9 (7)  12 (10)  9 (9)  2 (2)  53 (47) 
Cambodia 1 (0) 1 (1)  8 (8)  3 (3)  20 (11)  33 (23) 
Vietnam 5 (5) 7 (2)  0 (0)  4 (2)  2 (1)  18 (10) 
China 7 (4) 2 (1)  1 (1)  2 (1)  2 (2)  14 (9) 
Bangladesh 0 (0) 0 (0)  2 (0)  3 (0)  1 (1)  6 (1) 
Total 73 (32)  48 (24)  62 (34)  32 (20)  31 (20)  246 (130) 

Source: World Health Organization [6]

References

1. World Health Organization. 2014. Global Alert and Response (GAR): Disease Outbreak News (DONs). Retrieved 13/06/2014, from http://www.who.int/csr/don/en/

2. Li Q, Zhou L, Zhou M, Chen Z, Li F, Wu H, et al. 2014. Epidemiology of Human Infections with Avian Influenza A (H7N9) Virus in China. New England Journal of Medicine 370: 530-532. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1304617

3. Xinhua. 2013. China confirms 132 H7N9 cases, 43 deaths.   Retrieved 29/05, 2014, from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/health/2013-07/10/c_132530082.htm

4. Lam TT-Y, Wang J, Shen Y, Zhou B, Duan L, Cheung C-L, et al. 2013. The genesis and source of the H7N9 influenza viruses causing human infections in China. Nature 502(7470): 241-244. doi: 10.1038/nature12515

5. World Health Organization. 2014. Influenza FAQs: H5N1 influenza. Retrieved 13/06/2014, from http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/avian_influenza/h5n1_research/faqs/en/

6. World Health Organization. 2014. Cumulative number of confirmed human cases for avian influenza A(H5N1) reported to WHO, 2003-2013. Retrieved 13/06/2014, from: http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/EN_GIP_20131008CumulativeNumberH5N1cases.pdf