“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.
National Security and Bioterrorism
In an article on the U.S. Department of Defense webpage, the American Forces Press Service reports on the first U.S. National Strategy for Biosurveillance, issued by the White House “to quickly detect a range of global health and security hazards.” According to the article, “the Defense Department has a running start in implementing the new plan, a senior defense official said,” and “many of the activities described in the strategy are ongoing at DOD.” “So much of what we’re doing is integrating the efforts and working hard on the overlap between global security and global health, in what [President Barack Obama] refers to as global health security,” said Andrew Weber, assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs, the news service writes (Pellerin, 8/22).
“More than 435,000 people have been displaced in Mali, as the country faces a complex humanitarian emergency due to conflict and food insecurity, according to a new report released by the United Nations relief agency,” the U.N. News Centre reports (8/16). “The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report nearly 262,000 displaced persons have registered as refugees in neighboring countries, including Niger, Burkina Faso and Algeria, while another 174,000 are internally displaced in the northern towns of Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal,” according to United Press International (8/16). “The World Food Programme (WFP) says there are 4.6 million people at risk of hunger in Mali,” Examiner.com notes (Lambers, 8/18).
“Too few people realize that the health of Americans and the health of people around the world are inextricably linked,” Kevin De Cock, director of the Center for Global Health of the CDC, writes in the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s “Impatient Optimists” blog. He continues, “In short, investing in global health isn’t just about humanitarianism. Cooperation across borders is essential in an increasingly connected world where diseases move as freely as people and products. It is in America’s interest to be a true global partner on health” (7/19).
In this post on her blog, “The Garrett Update,” Laurie Garrett, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), examines the potential implications of a fake hepatitis vaccine campaign carried out by the CIA in Pakistan last year in an attempt to gather DNA from Osama bin Laden’s family. She writes that “the fake vaccine effort has now put at least 300,000 children in Afghanistan and Pakistan in danger of contracting polio, led multiple imams and Taliban leaders to declare vaccines are CIA plots, and [on Tuesday] prompted what appears to have been an assassination attempt against a World Health Organization immunization convoy, leaving two individuals alive, but shot” (7/17).
New York Times Examines How CIA's Decision To Use Vaccination Team Affecting Polio Eradication Efforts
The New York Times examines how the CIA’s 2011 decision to use a vaccination team to collect DNA samples and information from residents of Osama bin Laden’s compound damaged efforts to vaccinate children for polio in Pakistan. The effects of the campaign, which has prompted local leaders to ban polio vaccination teams, will not be fully known “until the summer spike of polio cases tapers off in the fall,” the newspaper writes and reviews the history of the case as well as polio in the region. Elias Durry, the WHO’s polio coordinator for Pakistan, “and other leaders of the global war on polio say they have recovered from worse setbacks,” and many experts are confident that Pakistan eventually will eliminate polio, according to the New York Times (McNeil, 7/9).
In order to “fill food gaps in the 70 most food deficient countries, … the U.S., through the Food for Peace program and other food aid programs, provides approximately two million tons of American-grown food donations to 50 million starving people every year,” James Henry, chair of USA Maritime, writes in an opinion piece in The Hill’s “Congress Blog.” He continues, “This food, delivered on ships proudly flying the U.S. flag in bags stamped ‘From the American People,’ provides a tangible symbol of our generosity that helps generate goodwill toward our nation,” and “we all should agree that our willingness to help others in need is one of our country’s proudest achievements.” Henry writes that though food aid programs account for less than one half of one percent of the federal budget and “impact the lives of millions of hungry people around the world every year,” they “are in jeopardy as some policymakers are considering eliminating funding for international food aid.”
Noting that the journal Science last week published the second of two controversial bird flu research papers, in which a team led by Ron Fouchier of the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam created a mutated strain of the virus that spreads easily among ferrets, a Washington Post editorial writes that “this is not the end of the story. Rather, it marks the beginning of an important chapter for both science and security.” The editorial continues, “The United States and other nations need a more sophisticated process for vetting research for possible security threats without discouraging or impairing scientists,” adding, “This is more difficult than it sounds.”
Congressman 'Dissatisfied' With Handling Of Controversial H5N1 Papers Calls For Cohesive Policy For Handling 'Risky' Research
“[D]issatisfied with the government’s handling of two research papers on mutant forms of avian influenza,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.) on Wednesday “said that the lack of a cohesive policy for handling risky research funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal agencies could necessitate new laws, a situation that researchers have been trying to avoid,” the Nature News Blog reports. “The second of the controversial papers showing that H5N1, or ‘bird flu,’ can spread through the air between mammals was published last week, providing some closure to the months-long debate about the work and whether its publication would result in the proliferation of dangerous viruses and increased risk of an accidental or intentional release,” the blog writes, adding, “Sensenbrenner says not enough work has been done to ensure that such controversies don’t arise again.”
The New York Times examines several studies published in the journals Nature and Science looking at how the H5N1 bird flu virus could mutate to become more virulent among humans and outlines the history of controversy surrounding the studies. “While scientists have offered two possible ways in which H5N1 might become a human flu, they’re almost certainly not the only two,” the newspaper writes, adding, “There is no checklist of mutations that any bird flu must acquire to start infecting humans.” According to the newspaper, “Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, hopes scientists will be able to amass a longer list of potential mutations, and even find a common denominator in how they alter H5N1,” which might make it “possible to monitor emerging strains for signs that they are about to cross over into humans” (Zimmer, 6/25).