Communicable disease control the 166 hotline launches

Introduction: The Vientiane Communicable Disease Control Department of the Ministry of Health on Monday the 28th of July officially launched a new 166 toll free hotline to assist with information on communicable disease prevention and control.

Story: The project was assisted by USAID and the World Health Organisation or WHO. The ceremony took place at the Department of Communicable Disease Control in Vientiane, attended by Deputy Minister of Health Dr Bounkong Sihavong, US Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Daniel Clune, local WHO representative Dr Juliet Fleischi and other guests.

The 166 hotline serves three purposes: it helps to detect clusters of disease or other health threats in the country, it’s an important tool to give health information and risk communication messages to people in the community and it’s a way for the public to give feedback and communicate directly to the government and line ministries about their concerns.

The hotline will focus on three infectious diseases or syndromes that are currently of major concern to the Lao government such as avian influenza, H5N1 and H7N9, dengue fever and acute watery diarrhoea.

According to WHO representative Dr Juliet Fleischi, Avian influenza A (H5N1) human infection has so far affected 16 countries with a total of 677 reported cases among them since 2003; about 60 percent of cases were fatal and there have been resurgences in our neighbouring countries of Vietnam and Cambodia in recent years.

Most recently, a new avian influenza virus, H5N6 has been identified among poultry in Laos.

For H7N9, the first human cases of a novel avian influenza virus H7N9 were first announced in China around a year ago and up to now, 450 cases have been detected which include 163 deaths with cases being reported close to the Lao-Chinese border.

Therefore, avian influenza will continue to threaten Laos. Community surveillance through the toll-free 166 hotline is a key instrument to detect cases of avian influenza but also for other communicable diseases.

Operation hours for the hotline are 8am to 4pm Monday to Friday, with a message service available after hours and on weekends.

Source: Lao National Television News in English
Broadcast on July 29, 2014