US Official: Terror War Should Not Stall Fight Against Disease

Nov 8, 2001
By George Gedda
The Associated Press

Washington - The US State Departments top science adviser said Friday the war on terrorism must not deflect attention from the need to combat infectious diseases, some of which, he said, could engulf entire continents if left unchecked. 

The United States and the international community must not and will not let terrorism or microbes destroy the immense promise that this century holds for humankind, said Dr Normam Neurieter, who advises US Secretary of State Colin Powell on science and technology issues.    Neurieter addressed a US State Department conference on global infectious disease and US foreign policy. His address was to have been delivered by Powell, but the secretary was unable to appear because of a scheduling conflict. 

A health official in Cambodia downplayed the concerns, saying malaria is a priority here regardless of what happens in Afghanistan. 

I think malaria is a priority in our program and in the public health of Cambodia, so I dont think that we have any problem with this situation, said Dr Duong Socheat, director of the National Malaria Center. 

A World Bank mission in Phnom Penh that runs until    Nov 21 has been setting a new agenda for Cambodia for the next two years. 

Duong Socheat said he has been assured that funding from USAID will continue for battling malaria as well, making it unlikely, at least for the near future, that anything will change in the countrys battle against malaria. 

Neurieter, speaking at the State Department conference, said a swift response is needed to combat infectious disease because countries are becoming increasingly interdependent. 

There should be no delays regardless of whether the infection is deliberately spread by domestic or foreign terrorists or whether it is naturally occurring, as with HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria, Neurieter said. 

Already these killers have taken the lives of tens of millions, he said. They can devastate communities. They can cripple economies. They can decimate countries. They can destabilize regions and, left unchecked, perhaps engulf entire continents. 

HIV/AIDS kills over 8,000 people every day, Neurieter said. Twenty-two million have died from it since 1980 and 38 million are infected and will die within seven years. 

Dr John Lamontagne of the US National Institutes of Health said 48 percent of all deaths of people under 45 and two-thirds of all deaths of children under 5 are the result of infectious disease. 

Lamontagne said 1.5 million to 2.7 million deaths around the world each year are attributable to malaria. Every 20 to 30 seconds a child dies of malaria, he said. 

He displayed a chart showing the problem is particularly acute in Africa, northern South America, South Asia and Southeast Asia. 

We have a tremendous problem ahead with malaria, Lamontagne said. (Additional reporting by Matt McKinney )