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From: E Phillip Lim <webxity@CYBERWAY.COM.SG>
Subject: Fwd: ASEAN: 'Old' diseases are emerging as a threat in S-E Asia: TB and malaria
Date: Monday, May 01, 2000 1:45 PM

Old diseases are emerging as a threat in S-E Asia

By Marianne Kearney, The Straits Times Interactive,
1 May 2000

Asean health ministers pledge to work together to fight infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria

JAKARTA -- Tuberculosis, malaria and other diseases, once thought to have been eliminated from many Asean countries, have again emerged as a major health concern in the region.

Even rarer diseases such as leprosy and yaws are again emerging in countries such as Thailand, and Indonesia, hard hit by the economic crisis, is struggling to control outbreaks of tuberculosis. Asean's health ministers on Saturday declared they will work to fight these infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria and will co-operate to fight Aids.

Thailand's Deputy Health Minister Kamron Na Lamphun offered to share his country's considerable experience in promoting Aids awareness and stabilising infection rates of HIV.

In fighting HIV we need to fight together among neighbouring countries, said Mr Kamron.

Thailand has the highest recorded levels of HIV infection in the region with one million people having tested HIV positive. Malaysia is also concerned about the rapid spread of HIV.

Indonesia has only 1,200 reported cases of HIV positive infection. However, non-government groups estimate that with the rise in intravenous drug use and prostitution the number of people with Aids could be as high as 150,000.

Singapore's Health Minister Lim Hng Kiang also expressed concern that with increased international travel and the greater flow of migrants even countries with strong disease control programmes risked new outbreaks of diseases.

Health and diseases transcend geographical boundaries. No country can consider itself isolated from the health problems of its neighbours, he said.

Mr Lim also called on the other countries to support plans for comprehensive disease surveillance and rapid contingency plans for any outbreaks of diseases.

Many Asean countries already have cross-border agreements to alert neighbouring countries about outbreaks of malaria.

However, the conference has endorsed an Asean-wide surveillance and alert system.

Most countries have some kind of monitoring system but the problem is no common way of collecting data, said Dr Suthad Setboonsarng, the Deputy Secretary-General of Asean.

Indonesia, the country with the third highest number of tuberculosis cases, has no accurate monitoring system.

Dr Broto Wasisto, an Indonesian epidemiologist, said that although Indonesia had almost eradicated malaria from Java since 1963, it had spread rapidly over the last few years because Indonesian farmers could no longer afford pesticides and because of changing weather conditions.

Mr Lim also called on governments to implement healthy lifestyle programmes to reduce the incidence of the so-called modern diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.