May 05, 2014 9:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases: are we prepared to care for children?

That was the question Andrew Pavia, MD, chief, Division of Pediatric Infectious Disease at the University of Utah, raised at the Pediatrics Academic Societies meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia in May.

Emerging infections are inevitable, but will hospitals and health professionals be able to keep up and identify them before they harm our most vulnerable population? Pavia says the good news is we can identify unknown pathogens faster than ever before; the bad news is during an outbreak or crisis, many infected patients will arrive at hospitals with limited pediatric resources.

At the turn of the millennium, 14 emerging infections made their presence in the West, including West Nile, anthrax, SARS, monkeypox and norovirus. According to Pavia, two-thirds of those 14 emerging infections arise from animals.

What can we expect for 2014? Pavia says it won’t be dull.

So far this calendar year MERS, measles, dengue, mumps, Ebola, influenza AH7N9 and Chikungunya have all made an appearance.

“We need a robust public health system,” said Pavia. “Rapid research will also be critical as we try to understand the severity of each disease.”

More than ever before, children are exposed to foreign illnesses through childcare, school, animal contact, etc. “We are never more than 24 hours away from a savannah or jungle where emerging infections may come from,” said Pavia.

In front of 200 of his peers from around the globe, he stressed the importance of research and preparedness. “A lot remains to be done.”

The Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting is the largest international meeting focused on research in child health. Approximately 7,000 pediatricians attended the conference where approximately 3,800 scientific presentations were showcased. 

infectious disease

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