Global partnership targets spread of infectious diseases

The United States is collaborating with more than 25 countries and international organizations to launch the Global Health Security Agenda to strengthen the world’s ability to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats.

According to Laura Holgate, senior director for weapons of mass destruction terrorism and threat reduction at the National Security Council, infectious disease threats such as Ebola, influenza A(H7N9) and dengue fever affect millions of people each year.

“Through our interconnected world, we are all vulnerable,” Holgate said during a media briefing. “Global travel and trade means that disease threats spread faster than ever before. This causes not only a loss of life, but also economic losses and, ultimately, instability from a security perspective. The United States and other countries have made a lot of important progress on this, but there is more to be done.”

In 2012, it was discovered that 80% of countries did not meet the WHO deadline for preparation against infectious disease threats, Holgate said. The Global Health Security Agenda is being launched to accelerate progress in this area and increase the global ability to manage infectious disease challenges.

From the US point of view, there are four key deliverables, Holgate said. First is announcing a commitment to partner with 30 countries and organizations to meet specific milestones in a 5-year period. Second is a CDC and Department of Defense partnership with 10 countries to begin implementing and accelerating these efforts.

The third deliverable is a $45 million increase to the CDC budget for fiscal year 2015, earmarked explicitly for global health security. The fourth component is a meeting at the White House in the fall of 2014, during which the partnering nations will convene to discuss progress and set the path to work on in the years to come.

“We know that infectious disease threats threaten the United States and other countries, and no one country can manage this problem on their own,” Holgate said. “This is truly a global agenda.”

CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, said there are new infections, such as influenza A(H7N9), and organisms that are resistant to all treatments, and there is the possibility of the spread of intentionally created organisms, such as through bioterrorism. Besides the commitment of the 25 or more countries and organizations to the Global Health Security Agenda, there are new technologies and other advances that provide the opportunity to make rapid progress.

Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH 

Thomas R. Frieden

“Success leads to success,” Frieden said. “A much safer world is within our reach. We know that new organisms will continue to emerge, but we can prevent, detect and respond to these outbreaks. The good news is that we’ve made very rapid progress. The bad news is that there are too many blind spots around the world.”

Andrew C. Weber, assistant secretary of defense for the nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, said the DOD is bringing resources to the agenda through its program and leveraging the department’s long history with medical and health innovation.

“The global infectious disease threat requires the defense community to work closely with domestic and international organizations in unprecedented partnerships,” Weber said. “The Department of Defense’s global presence, with our service members and their families around the world, make us particularly concerned about natural and deliberate infectious disease threats. It’s just one more reason that we need to work with partners to boost global capacity to prevent, detect and respond to disease outbreaks.”