CDC Hanoi office to help beef up surveillance, response to emerging diseases across region

US Vice-President Kamala Harris delivers remarks during the official launch of the CDC Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi on Aug 25, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - A new South-east Asia office of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Vietnam is part of the agency's long-term vision of a "robust, interconnected network of about eight to 12 regional offices around the globe", US officials said.

The CDC office in Hanoi was launched on Wednesday (Aug 25) by United States Vice-President Kamala Harris.

"It's critical that we strengthen global health security even further to prepare for the next global health crisis," CDC chief medical officer Mitchell Wolfe told reporters during a conference call.

"A disease threat anywhere is a disease threat everywhere.

"The regional office will work to strengthen core health security capacities in areas such as surveillance, data use, laboratory science, workforce development and emergency preparedness," Dr Wolfe said.

CDC South-east Asia regional director John MacArthur said: "Over the past two decades, South-east Asia and neighbouring areas have seen the emergence of Nipah virus, Sars, avian influenza, and Covid-19. Even the Zika virus that significantly impacted the health of South Americans was of Asian lineage.

"Our regional office will work to coordinate CDC's approach to help address risks associated with the development of these new pathogens of pandemic potential, work to mitigate them at the source, and work collaboratively to prepare and address any future public health threats."

Dr MacArthur told The Straits Times: "My team in the regional office… will be engaged in the development of strategies for the region and policies for the region."

He added: "We will have a sort of a bird's-eye view of what is happening here, and through communications with our partners across the region, we'll be able to advocate for resources to leadership in Atlanta and in Washington."

But the main focus is to help strengthen health security partnerships across the region, both at the bilateral level and with regional partners.

"And those areas are fairly… clear," he said.

"No. 1 is surveillance. We need to have robust surveillance systems that can detect a new pathogen or an old pathogen early so that our public health authorities and the ministries around the region can respond quickly and effectively… to contain that outbreak before it grows."

He added: "It will also ensure that the lab systems are as strong as they possibly can be.

"And then focus on the coordination of the response through public health emergency management training, (and) strengthening the emergency operations centres, which really serve as the main coordinating unit for many of the ministries of health across the region."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.