Sunday, April 11, 2010

U.S. and Laos Co-Host Multinational Pandemic Influenza Workshop

Major infectious disease outbreaks in Asia are being placed under the microscope during a series of workshops co-hosted by the U.S. and Laos. This multinational "Pandemic Influenza Civil-Military Senior Planners Workshop" from 6-9 April, 2010, included more than 45 civilian and military medical professionals from 12 nations. Participating nations include Cambodia, the Maldives, Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Vanuatu and Vietnam.

Part of the discussion included how H1N1 spread so quickly outside of Mexico last year. Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE) lead for the pandemic influenza workshop series, Andy Bates, thinks this is "because a local surveillance system was lacking." As a result, Laos presented on its newly instituted pandemic community surveillance network to other countries in the region. Bates thinks this knowledge sharing and collaboration may provide an opportunity to contain an infectious disease before it spreads to the general population. After all, the goal of the four-day workshop involved strategizing to integrate civilian and military resources into contingency planning for major infectious disease outbreaks at the national, provincial, and district level. The COE plans to execute a series of bilateral workshops to take pandemic influenza lessons learned to the community level in several Asia-Pacific countries later this year.

Bates added, "All the countries that were not able to attend [last year's] workshop have been invited to this one. Material from the [that] workshop, as well as additional lessons learned from last year's H1N1 outbreak are being covered."

This workshop is part of the ongoing cooperation by the U.S. Embassy in Laos, the U.S. Department's of Defense's (DoD) Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE) on behalf of the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) with the Lao Ministry of Health, Lao National Emerging Infectious Disease Coordinating Office (NEIDCO) and the People's Army Military Medical Department.

The 2010 multi-event pandemic workshop series is the result of an inter-agency agreement between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD).

The Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance (COE-DMHA) was established by the US Congress in 1994 to facilitate civil-military management in international disaster management and humanitarian assistance. It partners with a wide variety of national and international governmental, non-governmental and international organizations to provide relevant education, training, coordination and research.

COE-DMHA, a U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) organization, is a direct reporting unit to the US military's Pacific Command (USPACOM) and is establishing field offices at global Combatant Commands (COCOMs) to promote global disaster preparedness and resiliency.

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