Recent news from WHO



· WHO welcomed the focus on infectious diseases and detailed health commitments made by the G8 countries in a final statement at 15–17 July summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. "The G8 spoke together on the essential need to tackle infectious diseases, because of their health, social, security and economic impacts," said WHO Acting Director-General Anders Nordström. "The commitments are detailed and specific, and represent another step forward in G8 leadership on public health." The G8 pledged to improve the ways in which the world cooperates on surveillance for infectious diseases, including improving transparency by all countries in sharing information. The G8 also committed to continued support to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and to eradication of polio. Nordström led a senior WHO team at the summit to contribute to discussions on infectious disease, and he addressed G8 leaders, in the presence of heads of state or government officials from Brazil, China, the Congo, Finland, India, Kazakhstan, Mexico and South Africa, as well as UN officials who had been invited.

· The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted new standards on the maximum allowable levels of a number of key contaminants and food additives in order to protect the health of consumers. At its latest session, which ended on 7 July, the Commission set standards for the maximum allowable amounts of contaminants such as lead and cadmium in certain foods. Additionally, newly adopted codes of practice will give guidance to governments on how to prevent and reduce dioxins and aflatoxins in food.

· WHO issued updated guidelines on 28 June for the airline industry to reduce the risk of tuberculosis (TB) and other infectious diseases being passed from passenger to passenger on board aircraft. The Tuberculosis and Air Travel guidelines stipulate that people with infectious TB must postpone long-distance travel, while those with multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) must postpone any air travel.

· WHO launched the world's first-ever international guidelines on safe places to swim and bathe on 27 June. The guidelines aim to protect people from the health risks associated with swimming pools, spas and other recreational bathing areas.

· Indonesia hosted an international expert consultation on avian influenza from 20 to 22 June. During the meeting, experts reviewed the status of the H5N1 virus in humans and animals. The group made recommendations on improving control of the virus in animals and humans, and it reviewed the lessons learned for rapid response and containment.

· WHO and the United Nations Population Fund pledged to step up efforts to address the increasing levels of sexual and reproductive ill-health after a 16 June meeting on the issue. The move follows two World Health Assembly resolutions on the issue in 2005 and 2006. Inadequate sexual and reproductive health services have resulted in maternal deaths and rising numbers of sexually transmitted infections, particularly in developing countries. WHO estimates that 340 million new cases of sexually transmitted bacterial infections, such as syphilis and gonorrhoea, occur annually in people aged 15–49 years. Many are untreated because of lack of access to services.

For more about these and other WHO news items please see: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/2006/en/index.html

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