Himalayan News Service

Lalitpur, June 22:

At a time when the world is facing public health threat due to emergence of diseases like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Avian Influenza, current health regulations, enforced since 1969, are being reviewed to make them responsive to threats posed by these diseases," a government official said. "The current regulations are now undergoing substantial revision to make them responsive to changes ushered in by the resurgence of the infectious disease threat, the increased volume and complexity of international travel and trade, and the widespread use of electronic communications," said Dr M K Malla, chief special secretary of planning and international aid division at the Ministry of Health. Mallas was speaking at a two-day national consultation workshop on International Health Regulations (IHR) that commenced here today.

The current regulations prescribe measures only for three diseases, namely cholera, plague and yellow fever. The five main changes in the revised version of IHR are notification, national IHR focal points, definition of core capacity required in surveillance and response, recommended measures for public health emergency of international concern and acknowledged risks, and mechanisms for external advice for support during emergencies.

Stating that no isolated control strategy would work in the long run, Dr BD Chataut, director-general, Department of Health Services, said, "The only certain way for countries to protect their populations from public health emergencies of international concern is to agree on global solutions that address a shared threat."

"The IHR provides security against spread of disease worldwide while avoiding unnecessary interference with international traffic," said Dr Lin Aung, acting World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Nepal. Underlining that IHR is the only legal framework with codes of practices to prevent international spread of diseases, Dr Ayana Yeneabat of the WHO-South East Asia Regional Office said that globalisation has made international cooperation even more necessary. Dr Mahendra Bahadur Bista, director of the Epidemiology and Disease Control Division, said that the objectives of the workshop range from briefing country stakeholders on the review process and implications of the revised IHR to building consensus on the legal document.