There have been major achievements in health security during the past decade since the world faced the potential SARS pandemic. Implementation of IHR (2005) has been a crucial step in this progress and stimulated new ways of working across sectors, within and between countries, and in partnership with WHO, and with other inter-governmental organizations and nongovernmental organizations.
This has led to the rapid and transparent sharing of information on diseases of international public health concern; supported by an increased knowledge of the mechanisms and origins of disease emergence, transmission and modes of spread it has provided us with a much more effective and rapid ability to detect and respond to future threats.
Nevertheless, there remains a long way to go. Not only are nearly half of the countries in the Asia Pacific region still developing their IHR (2005) core capacities, with some possibly requiring additional time, but the region has been the epicentre for many emerging infectious diseases. More than half of the world’s population live in the Asia Pacific region, providing many challenges in building, strengthening and sustaining functional national systems and capacities for managing emerging diseases.
The world is still facing the ongoing threat from avian influenza A(H5N1) and from new diseases such as the novel coronavirus in the Middle East and A(H7N9) avian influenza in China. Doubtless, new threats will emerge in the near future. The importance of IHR (2005) in detecting and responding to these threats in a transparent, collaborative and coordinated way cannot be overestimated; it is the single most important development in public health in this new millennium.