The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday released a 268-page annual report that “profiles a wide range of CDC influenza-related projects around the world, from flu surveillance in Indonesia to vaccine effectiveness studies in El Salvador and epidemiology training in Ghana,” CIDRAP News reports. The report also “describes the CDC’s collaborations with the World Health Organization (WHO), outlines projects it supports in about 40 countries, … describes specific studies undertaken in many of those countries,” “lists international training conferences it has sponsored, and describes the CDC program for sharing diagnostic test kits and reagents,” the news service writes. “Over the past six years the [international] program has undergone remarkable growth and has expanded to provide support to over 40 countries, all WHO regional offices and WHO headquarters,” the report notes, according to CIDRAP. “The report, covering 2011, is the third annual account of the agency’s global flu activities, which have expanded greatly in the past decade,” the news service adds (Roos, 10/30).
National Security and Bioterrorism
“African countries are most at risk of social unrest and famine stemming from food shortages and rising prices, according to risk advisory firm Maplecroft,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports. The news service writes, “Africa accounts for 39 of the 59 most at-risk countries in Maplecroft’s Food Security Risk Index and has nine of the 11 nations in the ‘extreme risk’ category, the Bath, England-based company said in a statement today” (Almeida, 10/9). “Despite strong economic growth, food security remains an issue of primary importance for Africa, according to a new study by [the] risk analysis company …, which classifies 75 percent of the continent’s countries at ‘high’ or ‘extreme risk,'” according to the statement (10/1). “African countries at ‘extreme risk’ include Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Burundi, Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, South Sudan, Comoros, and Sierra Leone, according to Maplecroft,” Bloomberg notes (10/9).
“The notion that diseases or contamination somehow recognize geographic or political borders is a dangerous illusion. … Fortunately, the United States has a broad, diverse, and world-class range of experience and expertise in dealing with all manner of global health issues,” Nils Daulaire, director of the Office of Global Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), writes in a perspective piece in the Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Citing some examples of the government’s work in global health, he continues, “With such a wide array of professionals and departments within HHS working on global efforts to prevent disease, promote health, and strengthen partnerships, we needed to find a way to pull together our work and bring it into a coherent whole.” Therefore, “the Office of Global Affairs recently unveiled the HHS Global Health Strategy (GHS) at the beginning of 2012,” he notes.
Devex News Analysis Examines Democratic, Republican Party Platforms On Foreign Policy, Including Global Health
A Devex news analysis examines the Democratic and Republican platform positions on foreign policy following the party conventions, writing, “Even as pocketbook concerns continue to overshadow foreign policy issues on the campaign trail, in both Charlotte and Tampa, top-billed speakers made the case for the U.S. foreign aid program.” The article examines the core principles of each platform, notes that neither platform offers specifics on foreign aid spending, and discusses the platforms’ stances on certain foreign policy issues, including global health, food security, climate change, and gay rights.
The State Department provides a transcript of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s speech at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. In the speech, delivered on Monday, Clinton discussed how “the Obama Administration has elevated development as an essential pillar of our national security alongside defense and diplomacy”; country ownership, which “means that a nation’s efforts are increasingly led, implemented, and eventually paid for by its government, communities, civil society, and private sector”; and transparency and accountability. “So for nearly four years, this administration has been updating our development assistance with these objectives in mind,” Clinton said, adding, for example, “We designed our Feed the Future food security initiative and our Global Health Initiative with an emphasis on country ownership and investment” (9/24).
Author Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, writes in this Foreign Policy opinion piece that the announcement that researchers from Norway and the U.S. have developed a supercontagious variety of bird flu “has highlighted a dilemma: How do you balance the universal mandate for scientific openness against the fear that terrorists or rogue states might follow the researchers’ work — using it as catastrophic cookbooks for global influenza contagion?” She continues, “Along with several older studies that are now garnering fresh attention, [the research] has revealed that the political world is completely unprepared for the synthetic-biology revolution” and notes “there are no consistent, internationally agreed-upon regulations governing synthetic biology, the extraordinarily popular and fruitful 21st-century field of genetic manipulation of microorganisms.”
Research into transmissible bird flu strains remains “urgent” despite flu investigators’ recent declaration of a “60-day moratorium on avian flu transmission because of the current controversy,” Yoshihiro Kawaoka of Tokyo University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, “a lead researcher on one of two recent studies showing how H5N1 can be transmitted through airborne droplets” among ferrets, writes in a commentary published Wednesday in the journal Nature, Reuters reports. In December, the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity “asked two leading journals, Nature and Science, to withhold details of both studies for fear it could be used by bioterrorists,” the news agency notes.
NIH Official Discusses Reaction To Bird Flu Studies, Development Of Publishing Mechanism In Nature Interview
Nature interviews Amy Patterson, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Science Policy, which administers the National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB), about the board’s decision in December to advise against full publication of “two papers on avian flu (H5N1) [that] could pose a biosecurity risk if published in their entirety.” Patterson discusses the efforts of the board and the “international flu community” to “develop a mechanism by which important details from the papers could be withheld from the general public while remaining accessible to public health officials and researchers studying the virus,” Nature writes (Ledford, 1/11).
In this Reuters opinion piece, New York-based writer Peter Christian Hall responds to “the U.S. government’s move to restrict publication of vital research into H5N1 avian flu,” writing, “This unprecedented interference in the field of biology could hinder research and hamper responsiveness in distant lands plagued by H5N1,” yet “no one seems to be challenging a key assumption — that H5N1 could make a useful weapon. It wouldn’t.”
The NIH is expected on February 1 to release a statement explaining how the U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity (NSABB) reached a decision in November to recommend “that two scientific papers describing research that created strains of bird flu potentially transmissible in humans should be published only if key details are omitted,” for fear “that terrorists or hostile nations could learn how to cause a pandemic,” a New York Times editorial by Philip Boffey, Times science editorial writer, states.