Chinese travellers wear masks to ward off SARS at a railway station in Beijing in 2004. Ten years later, a new effort aims to improve countries’ ability to prevent disease outbreaks.
NEW YORK: Twenty-seven countries yesterday announced the launch of an effort to improve the ability to prevent, detect, respond to and contain outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases.
The Global Health Security Agenda will take on outbreaks — natural, accidental or intentional — as in the case of a biological weapon. Meeting in Washington, DC, the countries include many that have been Ground Zero for recent outbreaks of potentially fatal contagious illnesses such as H7N9 bird flu, detected in China a year ago, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
The agenda is a recognition that the vast majority of countries are poorly prepared to detect and contain outbreaks, and that their failure to institute effective disease-surveillance and -control systems poses a global threat. “In our interconnected world we are all vulnerable” when countries lack the will or ability to detect and contain infectious-disease outbreaks,” Laura Holgate, Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism and Threat Reduction at the US National Security Council, said ahead. “Disease threats spread faster than ever before.”
The agenda aims to prevent avoidable epidemics by, for instance, keeping to a minimum the number of labs worldwide that store dangerous microbes and by extending vaccination programmes.
Another goal is to detect threats early by strengthening and linking disease-monitoring systems of countries, developing real-time electronic reporting systems, and promoting faster sharing of biological samples. Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Sourth Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda, the UK and Vietnam joined the US for the launch.Reuters