Huge impact from infectious diseases Friday, 11 November 2016

Source: University of Auckland, 11 November 2016

New Zealanders are in the dark about the threat of infectious diseases, according to University of Auckland microbiologist, Dr Siouxsie Wiles.

"An island mentality means New Zealanders often dismiss the threat of infectious diseases as a third world problem, or assume that modern medicine will easily solve an infection," says Dr Wiles who is involved in a new campaign to raise awareness about infectious diseases.

"Infectious diseases are increasing in New Zealand and we are rapidly running out of ways to treat common conditions such as skin and soft tissue infections and pneumonia."

She says the recent outbreak of Campylobacter in Havelock North "reminds us that people of all backgrounds are at risk, and that infectious diseases have a broad impact across our society".

The new online campaign InfectedNZ runs next week and aims to start a national conversation about the health, social and economic impacts of infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance across Aotearoa New Zealand.

The campaign coincides with World Antibiotic Awareness Week run by the World Health Organisation.

Dr Wiles says the growing rate of antibiotic resistance means today's easily treatable diseases could have devastating impacts in the future.

Already an estimated 700,000 plus people worldwide die each year due to drug-resistant infections. The World Health Organisation characterises the problem as one of the biggest threats to global health today.

"Bacteria and other pathogens are evolving to resist existing drugs and their evolution is outpacing the development of new medicines," says Dr Wiles. "We need to get real about our vulnerability and have a national conversation about how the public, health workers, policymakers and the agriculture sector can make a difference."

InfectedNZ runs from 14-18 November with a series of research-driven blog posts and social media conversations. Visit tepunahamatatini.ac.nz or follow #InfectedNZ.

InfectedNZ is an online curated conversation by Te Pūnaha Matatini, a Centre of Research Excellence in complex systems and networks hosted by the University of Auckland.

Data used in the discussions is collated and provided by Figure.NZ, a charity devoted to getting people to use data about New Zealand.