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Risk Analysis in the UK Foresight Programme on the Detection and Identification of Infectious Diseases

Suk, J   Lyall, C   Tait, J

January 2008

Recognising the challenge that emerging infectious diseases (such as SARS, BSE or avian influenza) pose to policy-makers and the scientific community, the UK Department of Trade and Industry Office of Science and Innovation (OSI), under the direction of Sir David King, the Government's Chief Scientist, conducted a cross-disciplinary Foresight study on Detection and Identification of Infectious Diseases (DIID) in 2004 and 2005. One element of this project was the design and implementation of a risk analysis, which is reported here.

Given that there is a wide range of factors that cause infectious disease spread, there is a need to develop holistic approaches to infectious disease management that incorporate the perspectives from a wide range of disciplines, including the epidemiological, biological, veterinary and social and economic sciences. To achieve this, we first developed a model viewing infectious disease spread as the outcomes of disease sources, pathways and drivers. Using this model, we developed a two-round Delphi survey that was completed by 80 experts from a wide range of disciplines. The findings draw attention to the highest perceived risks of infectious disease spread in 2015 and 2030, which for the latter included geographic extension of pathogens (partially due to climate change), over-use of antibiotics/antivirals leading to drug resistance and zoonosis. The methodology used in this analysis provides a framework for further use by policy-makers who need to integrate a wide range of perspectives and factors into their planning and analyses.

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