“The threat from emerging infectious agents and agents of biosecurity concern in ASEAN”

Advances in medical sciences and public health have led to general well-being and longevity of the world population. It was previously expected that the threat from infectious diseases would be finally eliminated. Unfortunately, we now know that this is not going to be true. Changing population demographic profiles and human environment leads to evolving stages of interactions between human and microbes and consequently emerging and reemerging infectious diseases. This is complicated by the possibility of using the biological materials for destruction of life, disruption of food production or scaring the public. South East Asia, including Southern China, is a hot spot of emerging infectious diseases. Multiple factors are implicated including high population densities, intensive animal farming, abundant but rapidly changing ecosystems, lifestyles that promote close contacts between human and wildlife, etc.

The risks are exemplified by several major outbreaks in the last decade such as SARS and avian influenza, which, led to devastating economic impacts. ASEAN is on the verge of becoming a single economic community starting from 2015. In order to fulfill that goal, an extensive road network has been proposed and built. Most have already been finished

Although not all of them have the same quality, they will definitely allow the transportation of people and goods, in the amount that ASEAN has never witnessed before. It is hoped that this will lead to sharing of prosperity, well-being and the sense of common values. As any good things, the road network can also have an unintentional effect.

It can become a conduit of infectious patients or agents. People infected with a respiratory pathogen in Vietnam can travel by road and still arrive at a port in Myanmar before being sick. Contaminated food can be transported around quickly and consumed almost simultaneously in several destinations. The soil in the region is a natural habitat of Burkholderia pseudomallei, which can cause septicemia, a deadly disease. It can be easily spread around by cars and trucks. Burkholderia pseudomallei and several respiratory pathogens are of biosecurity concerns. Intentional food contamination can severely affect consumer confidence and lead to consequent disruption of food distribution and agricultural production with enormous economic impacts in the regions and globally, as ASEAN is one of the world major food producing areas.