We are currently caught in a situation where global traffic is increasing by leaps and bounds, and together with this the rapid spread of infectious agents. It is no wonder, therefore, that threats of infectious agents, both old and new, both intended (as in bioterrorism) and unintended can easily cause havoc to mankind. Recent threats of SARS, influenza, avian influenza and meningococcemia among others have caused great concern among health planners and administrators and the general public. The global effect of SARS has caused us to re-think and re-assess our global preparedness with dealing with new and highly virulent infectious agents. It has also become apparent that the most affected are usually the developing countries where realistically resources are lacking. It is therefore imperative that the countries of the world consolidate efforts to prevent and curb the spread of such potential global pandemics
More than the presence of a national, regional and local infrastructure and capability for dealing with new infectious agents, people and the general public should be well-informed about the facts: the etiologic agent, how it causes disease, how it is diagnosed, how it is managed and prevented in a way that is understandable. This will of course, contain the mass hysteria and over-reaction that goes with ignorance and lack of information. Public unpreparedness to deal with such events compounds the problem of response even more
It is our responsibility, therefore, as health care providers to give the right information in the right way at the right time. Ignorance is our greatest enemy. This can only be achieved if we continually update ourselves and coordinate with the appropriate agencies. The public is entitled to the right information and the appropriate national and public health response that go with it.