Countries, health authorities work to reduce global disease risk

Published on March 19, 2014
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The U.S. and 26 other countries committed in February to helping improve global infectious disease prevention, surveillance, and response.

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), World Health Organization, and Food and Agri­culture Organization of the United Nations also agreed to work on the Global Health Security Agenda, according to an announcement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Tom Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a Feb. 12 conference call with news media that the project could make the U.S. and the world safer, despite a growing “storm of vulnerability” that includes the H7N9 influenza virus, pathogens resistant to treatments, and potential attacks that use intentionally created or released organisms.

“With our globalized world, a threat anywhere is a threat everywhere,” Dr. Frieden said. “If there is the emergence of a disease in any part of the world, it could be in any other part of the world within a day.”

Dr. Frieden cited the CDC’s work during 2013 in Uganda as an example of the progress that could be made. He said Uganda had only some single-disease diagnostic networks in part of the country prior to work with the CDC, but the country now has a system of sample collection, motorcycle couriers, shipment, testing, and results delivery that can find and prevent the spread of infections with Ebola virus, other hemorrhagic fevers, cholera, and drug-resistant tuberculosis. The new system already has been used to prevent outbreaks involving Zika virus, plague, and hemorrhagic fever, he said.

“A much safer world is really within our reach,” Dr. Frieden said. “We know that new organisms will continue to emerge, but we can prevent outbreaks and epidemics.”

Laura Holgate, senior director for weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and threat reduction at the U.S. National Security Council, said in the conference call that countries involved in the project are committing to make global progress within the next five years. The CDC and Department of Defense committed $40 million in fiscal year 2014 toward helping 10 countries implement or improve health security, and President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015 includes a $45 million increase in the CDC’s budget toward again helping 10 countries improve global health security, Holgate and Dr. Frieden said. 

The countries committed to the Global Health Security Agenda by mid-February were Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Vietnam.