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PREVENTING AIRPORT MALARIA AND TRANSMISSION OF OTHER DISEASES THROUGH AIR TRAVEL

New Orleans, LA – Dr. James Diaz, Professor and Director of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Public Health, will present information on how to prevent the transmission of diseases through air travel in Washington DC on September 18, 2009. Dr. Diaz’s presentation is part of a policy planning panel during the Transportation Research Board’s Research on the Transmission of Disease in Airports and on Aircraft Symposium. Dr. Diaz’s presentation focuses on mosquito-borne diseases like malaria, West Nile Virus, dengue fever, and Chikungunya virus, for which there are  competent mosquito vectors, or carriers, now present in the US capable of transmitting these imported diseases between infected airline travelers and non-immune residents. The full agenda is at http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/archive/conferences/2009/spreadofdisease/agenda.pdf

Malaria, a mosquito transmitted parasitic disease, remains the most common cause of infectious disease deaths worldwide, followed by tuberculosis and AIDS. 

“Accessible airline connections now permit infected individuals to travel anywhere in the world in less than 24 hours delivering human reservoirs of malaria, dengue, West Nile virus, and Chikungunya fever to new temperate areas for local transmission by new and adaptable mosquito vectors, often recent air- or sea-arrivals themselves,” note Dr. Diaz.

Prevention and control strategies for these  imported infectious diseases, should include early case definition, case confirmation, and treatment; strengthened vector surveillance to detect the potential for local transmission; and drainage of potential mosquito breeding and egg-laying surface water sites.  Although the relationships among infected vector importation, index case immigration, reclaimed disease ecosystems, and malaria transmission are complex, future attempts to control and eradicate airport and imported malaria should be based on an understanding of disease transmission mechanisms and an appreciation that climate and ecosystem changes can support re-emerging local mosquito-borne infectious diseases in non-endemic areas, especially malaria, dengue, Chikungunya, and West Nile virus.

The Transportation Research Board (TRB) is one of six major divisions of the National Research Council— a private, nonprofit institution that is the principal operating agency of the National Academies in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The National Research Council is jointly administered by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. TRB was established in 1920 as the National Advisory Board on Highway Research to provide a mechanism for the exchange of information and research results about highway technology. Greatly expanded, programs today also include new cooperative research programs in airports, freight, and hazardous materials transportation, and the second Strategic Highway Research Program.

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