U.S. Supports Framework to Respond to Cross-Border Disease Outbreaks
QUANG TRI, Vietnam, August 19, 2011 - Human and animal health experts from Vietnam and Laos this week hammered out a coordination plan to help stem the spread of infectious disease in their border areas.
At a two-day workshop sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), national officials and authorities from the neighboring provinces of Quang Tri, Vietnam, and Savannakhet, Laos, established communications and emergency coordination contacts and planning that will help guide the two countries in the event of future disease outbreaks.
"We live in an ever-growing, integrated and interconnected world," said Tim Meinke, USAID's Senior Infectious Diseases Advisor. "All of us have a shared strategic objective that is to address, mitigate, and respond to public health threats and potential pandemics. This exercise is certainly a very important step in that process."
With technical support from the Kenan Institute Asia and the World Health Organization, the 130 delegates examined the case of anthrax as a possible outbreak scenario, learning more about the disease that can spread from animals to humans and how to prevent widespread outbreaks through the movement of infected food, people, livestock, and illegally trafficked wildlife.
"In each country, raising the awareness of the communities in the prevention and control of diseases like anthrax is very important," said Dr. Tran Thanh Duong, Deputy Director of the General Department of Preventative Medicine of Vietnam's Ministry of Health.
According to Dr. Boonlay Phommasack, Deputy Director General of the Lao Department of Hygiene and Prevention, the workshop further strengthened collaboration on cross-border health issues. "We have brought everyone together to get a better understanding of the situation. Once we understand it, we have to have a very strategic plan where stakeholders need to be involved and develop the indicators to follow up at once."
Anthrax outbreaks continue to affect populations in Asia. According to ProMed statistics presented at the workshop, there were at least 374 human cases of anthrax in the Asia and Pacific region between 2008 and 2010, including 13 in Vietnam.
Earlier this month, the Vietnam Administration of Preventative Medicine reported human cases of anthrax in the northern mountainous provinces of Lai Chau and Dien Bien. In Dien Bien, a number of residents butchered two buffaloes that had died from disease and invited other villages to join in eating what was later determined to be infected meat.