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U.S. Department of State

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of Science and Technology Policy


WEDNESDAY, June 12,1996
CONTACT (202) 456-6020

ADDRESSING THE THREAT OF EMERGING INFECTIOUS DISEASES

The President today established a national policy to address the threat of emerging infectious diseases through improved domestic and international surveillance, prevention, and response measures.

Background

Emerging infectious diseases such as Ebola, drug-resistant tuberculosis, and HIV/AIDS present one of the most significant health and security challenges facing the global community. Deaths from infectious disease have risen sharply over the past decade in the United States, and globally. In the United States alone, the death rate from infectious diseases, excluding HIV/AIDS, rose by 22 percent between 1980 and 1992. Contributing factors, such as climate change, ecosystem disturbance, increased movement of people and goods, and the deterioration of public health infrastructures, show no sign of abatement. Addressing this challenge requires a global strategy as most cities in the United States are within a 36 hour commercial flight of any area of the world - less time than the incubation period of many infectious diseases. Furthermore, the United States is vulnerable to a release of biological agents by rogue nations or terrorists, which could result in the spread of infectious diseases.

The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) has determined that the national and international system of infectious disease surveillance, prevention, and response is inadequate to protect the health of U.S. citizens. The NSTC reports, "Infectious Disease - A Global Health Threat" (September 1995), "Meeting the Challenge -- A Research Agenda for Health, Safety, and Food" (February 1996), and "Proceedings of the Conference on Human Health and Global Climate Change" (May 1996), make a number of recommendations to improve our surveillance, prevention, and response capabilities which are reflected in this policy.

Policy Goals

1. Strengthen the domestic infectious disease surveillance and response, both at the Federal, State, and local levels and at ports of entry into the United States. In cooperation with the private sector and with public health and medical communities.

2. Establish a global infectious disease surveillance and response system, based on regional hubs and linked by modern communications.

3. Strengthen research activities to improve diagnosis, treatment, and prevention, and to improve the understanding of the biology of infectious disease agents.

4. Ensure the availability of the drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic tests needed to combat infectious diseases and infectious disease emergencies through public and private sector cooperation.

5. Expand missions and establish the authority of relevant United States Government agencies to contribute to a worldwide infectious disease surveillance, prevention, and response network.

6. Promote public awareness of emerging infectious diseases through cooperation with non-governmental organizations and the private sector.

U.S. Government Roles and Responsibilities

1. Enhance the surveillance and response components of our domestic and international public health infrastructure.

2. Enhance biomedical and behavioral research efforts on emerging infectious diseases.

3. Expand formal training for health care providers.

4. Review and update regulations, procedures, and resources for screening and quarantine at ports of entry into the United States.

5. Make information about ill international travelers with communicable diseases more accessible to domestic health authorities.

6. Encourage other nations and international organizations to assign higher priority to emerging infectious diseases.

7. Support the World Health Organization (WHO) and other bodies in playing a stronger role in the surveillance, prevention, and response to emerging infectious diseases.

8. Expand United States agency missions and mandates in order to ensure that responsible agencies are provided with the authority, emergency procurement powers, and resources to respond to worldwide disease outbreaks that have the potential to adversely affect the United States.

Coordination by a Standing Task Force

A standing Task Force of the National Science and Technology Council is established to provide strategic planning and further coordination on issues of emerging infectious diseases. The Task Force will establish action groups as necessary to pursue specific topics. In particular, the Task Force will act immediately to realize the objectives and implementing actions described above.

The Task Force will be co-chaired by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Task Force will seek the views of the private sector and health service providers in implementing this initiative.

Reporting Requirements

The Task Force will report to the President through the NSTC and will reports on the progress realized, including recommendations for further action.

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