In the aftermath of the Indonesian tsunami, the World Health Organization (WHO) is coordinating efforts to limit further loss of life with an early warning system for epidemics.
In this article in Science, Gretchen Vogel explains how the WHO's focus on disease surveillance is paying off. Aid workers have already succeeded in stopping a potential measles epidemic in its tracks with a localised vaccination programme, and a close eye is being kept on any signs of nine other potential killers, including dysentery and malaria.
The only problem so far has been reaching the people in need: it took aid workers almost three weeks to reach the north-west coast of Aceh, for instance. WHO officials remain cautiously optimistic that the surveillance system will prevent major outbreaks, however.
Reference: Science 307, 345 (2005)