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National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases (NIAID)

Thursday, April 3, 1997

Media Contact:
NIAID Press Office
(301) 402-1663

World Health Day - April 7, 1997

Emerging Infectious Diseases - Global Alert, Global Response

Statement of NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D.

The theme for World Health Day 1997, "Emerging Infectious Diseases - Global Alert, Global Response," reflects our heightened awareness that our battle with infectious diseases is far from over and must be fought on many fronts. More than thirty newly recognized infectious diseases and syndromes have emerged in the last two decades alone, and endemic diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and diarrheal disease continue to exact a huge toll. Many people do not realize that infectious diseases remain the leading cause of death worldwide, and the third leading killer of Americans. Adding to the problem is the development of drug resistance, which has made many common infections increasingly difficult to treat.

Clearly, we remain vulnerable to infectious diseases, old and new. One needs only to talk to our older citizens to be reminded of this. My 86-year-old father, for instance, has in his lifetime experienced two global pandemics that had extraordinary impact. As a young boy he saw many relatives and acquaintances succumb to influenza during the great flu pandemic of 1918, which claimed at least 20 million lives worldwide. As a retiree, he has witnessed the emergence of the AIDS pandemic, which, like the flu pandemic of 1918, has afflicted people on every continent, often in the prime of their lives.

As the AIDS epidemic has dramatically demonstrated, emerging diseases pose an enormous threat, both in human and economic terms. No nation is immune: in today's "global village," the ease and speed of modern travel makes it possible for a pathogen to be carried to any of the world's cities within hours.

From a research perspective, emerging diseases pose problems of unparalleled complexity. The emergence of new or altered pathogens is unpredictable, occurring as a result of microbial evolution, changes in host-pathogen interaction, and a myriad of other mechanisms. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) is committed to finding ways to enhance diagnosis, treatment, prevention and control of emerging infectious diseases. As the lead federal agency in the United States for conducting and supporting basic and clinical research on infectious diseases, NIAID has well-established research programs that address a wide range of emerging and re-emerging pathogens. In addition, as part of a national strategy for confronting these challenges, NIAID has developed a comprehensive Research Agenda for Emerging Infectious Diseases, defining priorities in three broad areas:

  • Expand basic and scientific knowledge and technologies that help advance our understanding of infectious agents, our susceptibility and immune responses to them, and the environmental factors that influence their emergence and spread.
  • Strengthen our ability to develop and validate new tools to prevent and control infectious diseases.
  • Ensure that support for training and research is sufficient for building and maintaining the scientific expertise and resources needed to control emerging infectious diseases.

Our view is that fundamental research in microbiology, immunology and related disciplines provides the foundation for surveillance and response, and research training is vital for maintaining our capability to identify and control new diseases.

NIAID is a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIAID conducts and supports research to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as HIV disease and other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis, asthma and allergies. NIH is an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIAID press releases, fact sheets and other materials are available on the Internet via the NIAID home page at

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