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January 17, 1996

WHO Wants Rapid Response to Emerging Threats

JAMA. 1996;275(3):178. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530270018009

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AMONG EFFORTS to cope with new and reemerging microbial threats is that of the World Health Organization (WHO), an autonomous unit within the United Nations system with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

Last fall, the WHO established a Division of Emerging, Viral, and Bacterial Diseases Surveillance and Control. This division, the WHO claims, "can mobilize rapid response teams of WHO staff and other international experts in response to epidemic threats and place them on the site of the outbreak within 24 hours."

Through the WHO's regional offices, the division is trying to strengthen the epidemiologic surveillance and public health laboratories of as many of its 190 member nations as possible. In effect, it is seeking greater international participation in the WHO's network for monitoring antimicrobial resistance, tracking frequent communicable diseases like influenza, and watching for new or reemerging public health threats.

Typical Reemerging Diseases  In addition to dramatic outbreaks such as