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US joins 26 Nations in Commitment to UN Programs Against Infectious Diseases
February 18, 2014

Two women talk to each other behind microphone
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, left, talks with White House official Lisa Monaco at a February 13 meeting about the Global Health Security Agenda in Washington.

14 February 2014

The United States joined 26 countries, the World Health Organization, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organisation for Animal Health February 13 in a commitment to accelerate progress toward a world safe from the threat of infectious disease and to the goals of the Global Health Security Agenda.

“Global health security is a shared responsibility; no one country can achieve it alone,” U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a February 13 posting on the HHS website. “In the coming months, we will welcome other nations to join the United States and the 26 other countries gathered here in Washington and in Geneva, as we work to close the gaps in our ability to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats.”

Over the next five years, HHS said, the United States will work with at least 30 partner countries containing at least 4 billion people to prevent, detect and effectively respond to infectious disease threats, whether naturally occurring or caused by accidental or intentional releases of dangerous pathogens.

“While we have made great progress in fighting and treating diseases, biological threats can emerge anywhere, travel quickly and take lives,” said Lisa Monaco, assistant to President Obama for homeland security and counterterrorism, who attended the Washington meeting launching the effort. “The recent outbreaks of H7N9 influenza and Middle East respiratory syndrome are reminders of the need to step up our efforts as a global community. The Global Health Security Agenda is about accelerating progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats.”

Later in 2014, the White House will host an event bringing together nations that are committed to protecting the world from infectious disease threats to chart the way forward on building a global system for preventing, detecting and responding to such threats.

“The United States and the world can and must do more to prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks as early and as effectively as possible,” U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Tom Frieden said. “CDC conducted two global health security demonstration projects last year in partnership with Vietnam and Uganda to strengthen laboratory systems, develop strong public health emergency operations centers and create real-time data sharing in health emergencies. CDC is committed to replicate the successes in these two projects in 10 additional countries this year.”

In fiscal 2014, CDC and the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency have committed to accelerate progress on global health security by co-developing a strategy and devoting $40 million to advance the U.S. government’s Global Health Security objectives in the 10 nations.The fiscal 2015 president’s budget request, HHS said, will include an increase of $45 million within CDC to prevent avoidable catastrophes, detect threats early and mobilize responses to contain outbreaks. The increase also would allow CDC to partner with up to 10 countries in 2015 to train field epidemiologists, develop new diagnostic tests, build capacities to detect new pathogens, build public health emergency management capacity, and support outbreak responses.

Sebelius, Monaco and Frieden were joined at the launch meeting by representatives in Washington and Geneva from the 26 countries and the three international organizations, and by other U.S. government officials, including Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom, acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox and Department of Agriculture Chief Veterinary Officer John Clifford. Their agencies will lead efforts to fulfill the U.S. government commitment to global health security.

“Efforts to prevent deadly outbreaks strengthen geopolitical stability and security,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said. “None of us, not the public health, security or agriculture sectors, can accomplish global health security on our own — it is obvious that an interdisciplinary approach is the best way to make progress.”

The U.S. government agencies will work closely with global partners to build countries’ global health-security capacities in areas such as surveillance, detection and response to slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance, establishing national biosecurity systems, reducing zoonotic disease transmission, increasing routine immunization, establishing and strengthening national infectious disease surveillance and laboratory systems, and developing public health electronic reporting systems and emergency operations centers.

“The Global Health Security Agenda set forth today establishes a road map for progress that ultimately depends on collaboration between the health and security communities,” said acting Deputy Defense Secretary Fox. “The Department of Defense is committed to continuing our work, together with our national and international partners, to strengthen global health security.”

Countries joining the United States to meet the Global Health Security goals at the February 13 launch were Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom and Vietnam.