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21 October 2005

United States Gives Laos $3 Million To Combat Bird Flu

Funds aimed at boosting efforts in preventing spread to poultry, humans

The United States is providing $3.4 million in assistance to support Laos in the effort to stop avian influenza and to improve pandemic preparedness.

The funds will be devoted to a variety of activities aimed at containing the disease among poultry and preventing its spread among humans, according to a press release from the U.S. Embassy in Vientiane, Laos.

The United States will help support Laos in developing influenza control plans, improving viral analysis capabilities, purchasing laboratory equipment and developing local disease-surveillance systems.

U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt announced the aid package while leading a U.S. delegation on a tour of the region in mid-October. (See related article.)

The United States also entered into an agreement to assist Cambodia by pledging $1.85 million in aid to help the Cambodian Ministry of Health bolster the public-health sector and prepare for a potential outbreak of bird flu.

Cambodia is one of four nations where a dangerous and aggressive avian flu virus – H5N1 – has crossed the species barrier from birds to humans. Four cases of respiratory infection in that country have ended in four deaths attributed to H5N1.

For more information on United States and international efforts to combat the outbreak, see Bird Flu (Avian Influenza).

The text of a U.S. Embassy press release follows:

(begin text)

United States Embassy
Vientiane, Laos

U.S. Assistance to Laos
October 13, 2005

The U.S. Government will provide an additional $3.408 million in emergency supplemental assistance to support avian influenza control and pandemic influenza preparedness and planning in the Lao People's Democratic Republic, including $ 1.858 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), $100,000 from U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and $1.45 million from U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through its Centers for Disease Control (CDC), will work with the Ministry of Health to strengthen Lao influenza pandemic preparedness. CDC will provide technical assistance (training, supplies and equipment) to strengthen human H5N1 infection prevention and surveillance, including laboratory diagnostic capacity, case management, enhanced rapid response capability, and public information and health education.

•  $300,000 will be spent to provide an influenza coordinator in Laos, who will be responsible for the coordination and facilitation of public health improvements and activities. The coordinator will select the most appropriate routes and organizations to receive funding to accomplish the mission in Laos.

• Laos will receive $100,000 to develop both short-term and long-term influenza prevention and control plans. These plans will include an assessment of current national capabilities and responses to an influenza pandemic, as well as activities critical to a comprehensive response to an outbreak or pandemic.

• The technical knowledge and equipment to properly identify and analyze viruses will be provided to Laos. $100,000 will be used to provide laboratory staff training in basic virology laboratory skills and in the methods for screening for influenza viruses. $225,000 will be used for BSL-2 laboratory training and $400,000 for BSL-2 equipment. The goal is to provide the laboratory capacity necessary for Laos to safely and accurately identify avian influenza separately from other strains.

• $100,000 will be used to develop village-based surveillance systems consisting of national networks of public health field staff and other allied personnel to detect and investigate suspect cases of avian influenza in humans.

• $150,000 will be used to assist and train in-country epidemiologists in Laos. Side-by-side assistance will be offered to help refine methods and capacity for surveillance and outbreak investigations of human cases.

• Laos will receive $250,000 to develop community- and hospital-based prevention, health promotion and health education activities. These activities will be used to increase public awareness about health risks associated with avian influenza, and to provide advice concerning prevention measures.

• $133,000 will be used to develop and train in-country rapid-response teams in Laos. The plan is to develop, train, and equip up to 100 four to five man teams to undertake emergency field studies, to dispense proper antiviral medications and to institute emergency control measures in the event of an outbreak. $100,000 will be dedicated to the creation of a national stockpile of essential materials and medicines used by these rapid-response teams.

USAID will work with affected ministries through the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) and private sector partners to enhance national preparedness and planning, improve animal surveillance and laboratory diagnostics, and strengthen rapid response capacities. Funds will also support a national communications campaign to increase awareness among the general public and those most at risk, and work to increase the role of the business community in responding to avian influenza.

USDA will provide technical assistance and support to increase the involvement of private companies in avian influenza control, improve animal surveillance and diagnostics and identify incentives to minimize under-reporting.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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