The Deputy Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Jon K. Andrus, told participants in the Second Annual International Conference on Tropical Medicine that strengthening disease surveillance systems should be a top public health priority for developing countries with significant burdens of tropical and other infectious diseases.

Dr. Andrus was the keynote speaker at the conference, held Feb. 23-24 at Florida International University in Miami. Other participants included tropical disease experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and PAHO, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), universities, medical facilities, and the pharmaceutical industry.

Dr. Andrus said investments in surveillance were essential to the success of recent efforts to eliminate rubella and congenital rubella syndrome from the Americas, illustrating in particular the importance of adequate human resources and improved infrastructure. The investments have had spillover benefits for other diseases, facilitating the rapid detection of antigenic shifts in viruses and circulating bacterial serotypes as well as other changes in transmission patterns. In addition to ensuring adequate funding, strategies to strengthen surveillance systems must focus on improved management and coordination, he said.