India faces the challenge of a range of infectious diseases. Every fifth new tuberculosis case in the world lives in the Indian subcontinent. Japanese Encephalitis is present in many areas of India and has caused serious epidemics in recent years. India has been less severely affected by the HIV epidemic than many other countries, despite early predictions of disaster, but still has almost three million people living with the virus. Bacterial resistance is a growing threat because of the widespread misuse of broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases will increasingly require the application of sophisticated epidemiologic and molecular biologic technologies, changes in human behaviour, a national policy on early detection of and rapid response to emerging infections and a plan of action.
WHO has made several recommendations for national response mechanisms. Many of these are in various stages of implementation in India. However, for a country of size and population of India, the emerging infections remain a real and present danger. A meaningful response must approach the problem at the systems level. A comprehensive national strategy on infectious diseases cutting across all relevant sectors with emphasis on strengthened surveillance, rapid response, partnership building and research to guide public policy is needed.
Jayashankar, Pune, India