The need for collaboration globally has never been more important with the unpredictability of outbreaks of infectious diseases, increasing antibiotic/antimicrobial resistance causing healthcare associated infections and the inevitable panic and confusion that follow. With widespread human travel and importation of foodstuffs outbreaks that commence in one country quickly become a European or international problem and often failure to track down the source of the problem only emphasises the communication issues that abound and undermine public confidence
Leading on from the last IIP Week in October 2010 we all breathed a sigh of relief as it was announced by the World Health Organization (WHO) that H1N1 influenza had moved into the post-pandemic period. With greater shared knowledge globally, synergy is achieved and development of vaccination programmes and this shared knowledge enabled us to approach the influenza season winter 2010/11 with more optimism.
Globally pandemic influenza was not the only outbreak during this period and below just some of the highlights in infectious disease outbreaks throughout 2010/11:
- Cholera and polio in several countries continued to have devastating effects and avian influenza was also present in several countries such as Egypt and Indonesia. In February 2011 more than 700,000 people were vaccinated against yellow fever in the recent emergency vaccination campaign in Côte d'Ivoire led by the Ministry of Health with support from WHO and UNICEF.
- As of 18 April 2011, 33 countries in Europe had reported more than 6 500 measles cases and epidemiological investigations and genotyping confirmed transmission of measles virus among several countries in the Region and to the Americas.
- In May 2011 an outbreak of severe illness caused concern in Germany, where 3 women died and 276 cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS) had been reported since the second week of May. By mid May ten countries had reported cases to WHO/Europe and a widespread investigation was underway. Following several false starts which caused prolonged economic turmoil and most of us to change our eating habits by the 14th July there had been fewer new cases of Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (HUS) and bloody diarrhoea (VTEC or EHEC infection, caused by E. coli O104) in Germany and other European countries and the source of the outbreak appeared to be confirmed.
- At the end of July and into August a multi-agency investigation established a link between a batch of imported eggs and an outbreak of Salmonella Enteritidis Phage Type (PT) 14b infection in England and Wales.
These outbreaks demonstrate how quickly and easily problems can and do travel either by human carriage or imported food and highlight the work that international organisations do and the importance of communication and collaboration globally.
Of course for many staff working in infection prevention the daily problems of keeping patients safe and protected from infection are much closer to home While infection prevention specialist battle with prevention of and surveillance of healthcare associated infection, new resistance in previously ‘everyday’ organisms (carbapenem resistance and NDM-1) (Acinetobacter baumannii) continue to cause new challenges and require new techniques to keep patients safe from infection and this is why we are including a section on ‘Important clinical issues for 2011/2012’ to update the evidence base behind practice in these areas