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Worldwide Pharmaceutical Industry, Aid Organizations Warn of Second Disaster in Myanmar
Date:6/12/2008

Health experts weary of potential disease outbreak in cyclone-ravaged country

WASHINGTON, June 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In the wake of Cyclone Nargis, Myanmar is facing a second crisis from the threat of diseases resulting from standing water, destroyed sanitation infrastructure and the lack of comprehensive medical systems. Thousands of children and those who where injured, made homeless or are malnourished following the storm are in particular jeopardy if these fast-spreading diseases are not averted early.

"These diseases are preventable and treatable, but left unchecked they will further devastate a country hit hard by limited health care, poor sanitation and unsafe water," said Paul T. Antony, MD, MPH, medical director of the Global Health Progress, an initiative sponsored by the worldwide pharmaceutical industry. "Myanmar's vulnerable population, resources and facilities cannot withstand the impact of a widespread disease outbreak, but the situation becomes almost inevitable unless we act now to prevent it and limit the broader impact."

Steps to avert disease outbreaks can be accomplished by public and private entities that can alert and educate locally-based health workers about the signs for disease, and support preparation of additional stockpiles of emergency care materials, antibiotics and medicinal treatments. Sophisticated disease transmission modeling used by aid organizations in collaboration with international pharmaceutical companies may also be used to advise in-country personnel of potential outbreak areas.

"Unlike the cyclone, we can avert this crisis," said Direct Relief International President and CEO Thomas Tighe. "Major international aid and health organizations can, and are, taking action to raise awareness at the local, national and global levels and working to gather information about diseases already appearing on the ground."

The amount of standing water and destroyed infrastructure can and will lead to widespread disease. The other barriers to preventing the outbreak of disease in Myanmar are four-fold:

1. Lack of systems to deliver drugs and basic medical services. There are

currently no formal systems in place to provide the preventive and

treatment services necessary to handle possible widespread disease

outbreaks. Any delivery mechanisms that existed prior to the cyclone have

been either severely damaged or destroyed.

2. Incapacitated local health care workforce. Those who were able to provide

health care services before are now either incapacitated or coping with

their own personal tragedies. The present situation also presents few

opportunities to utilize health care workers from other countries.

3. Inability to access available health resources. The widespread

destruction of transportation and communications infrastructure has

prevented people from finding appropriate medical care and from knowing

when such care might be available in their local area.

4. Poor management and integration of preventative health solutions. Myanmar

is currently systemically incapable of incorporating plans for managing

health outcomes related to the catastrophe, including implementing

clean-up and sanitation programs, eliminating standing water sources,

communicating disease prevention and treatment plans, and establishing

livelihood resumption schemes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), acute respiratory infection, bloody diarrhea, and dengue fever have already been reported. In Myanmar, dengue season hits its peak in July, increasing the likelihood of a widespread outbreak of this serious and potentially deadly disease.

For more information about outreach in Myanmar by Direct Relief International, visit http://www.DirectRelief.org. To learn more about Global Health Progress, go to http://www.globalhealthprogress.org.

About Direct Relief International

Founded in 1948, Direct Relief International is a Santa Barbara-based nonprofit organization focused on improving the quality of life by bringing critically needed medicines and supplies to local healthcare providers worldwide. Direct Relief is one of two charities ranked by Forbes that has received a perfect fundraising efficiency score for five consecutive years and is ranked by the Chronicle of Philanthropy as California's largest international nonprofit organization based on private support. For more information, please visit http://www.DirectRelief.org.

About Global Health Progress The Global Health Progress initiative brings research-based biopharmaceutical companies and global health leaders together to improve health in the developing world. Through meaningful public-private partnerships with others in the field, including policymakers in the developed and developing world, multi-lateral institutions, non-governmental organizations, and academe, Global Health Progress is helping to shape sustainable solutions that improve the health of all people. For more information, please visit http://www.globalhealthprogress.org.


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SOURCE Global Health Progress; Direct Relief International
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