Global initiative launched to fight infectious diseases

Global initiative launched to fight infectious diseases

Global Health Security Agenda will involve at least 31 partner countries that will share information about outbreaks, disease surveillance.

Twenty-seven countries have joined together in a U.S. led initiative to launch an effort to improve the ability to prevent, detect, respond to, and contain outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases throughout the world.

Formation of the Global Health Security Agenda was announced on Thursday.  Its goal is to take on outbreaks whether natural, accidental, or intentional, as in the case of a biological weapon.  Many of the countries involved in the new group have been Ground Zero in recent outbreaks of potentially fatal contagious illnesses.

“In our interconnected world we are all vulnerable” when countries lack the will or the ability to detect and contain infectious-disease outbreaks, Laura Holgate, senior director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction at the U.S. National Security Council, told reporters.

The Pentagon is already involved, even now spending nearly $300 million a year to build laboratories and other health-security infrastructures overseas.

The Global Health Security Agenda will attempt to prevent epidemics in part by keeping to a minimum the number of labs worldwide that store dangerous microbes, and by extending vaccination programs.  Another goal is to detect threats early, through strengthening and linking disease-monitoring systems of individual countries, developing real-time reporting systems, and promoting faster sharing of biological samples, such as from people with new forms of influenza.

Lisa Monaco, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism said “This is not just a health challenge – it is a security challenge as well. Infectious diseases have the potential to cause enormous damage in terms of lives lost, economic impact, and ability to recover, just as with nuclear, chemical, or cybersecurity attacks. In today’s interconnected world, they emerge and spread faster than ever before. These threats know no borders, and no one country can address them alone.”

“This is probably the most comprehensive effort in recent memory to address the problem of infectious disease threats and to bring different parts of the U.S. government and other governments together to try and address it,” Scott Dowell, director of Global Disease Detection and Emergency Response at the CDC Center for Global Health said.

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