US launches new effort against infectious disease

Federal health officials are spearheading a new global effort to fight infectious diseases, particularly in countries that are ill equipped to address rising threats.

Dubbed the Global Health Security Agenda, the initiative will seek to strengthen disease-monitoring ties between countries, contain the number of laboratories that handle dangerous microbes and boost vaccination programs.

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"Microbes and diseases are moving faster and farther than ever," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius reportedly said Thursday at a meeting with international partners. "A threat anywhere is indeed a threat everywhere."

The effort will involve at least 26 countries and major groups like the World Health Organization, according to an announcement, and follows a 2005 agreement that bound 194 countries to improve their disease detection and response abilities. Many failed to do so by a June 2012 deadline, according to a report by CBS News and Reuters.

U.S. funds for the program will come from the Centers for Disease Control and the Pentagon, which already has a budget for global health security. The Obama administration has proposed expanding funding for the new program in the coming years.

Retiring Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, praised the initiative Thursday as a boon to health in the United States.

"With our increasingly global community, infectious diseases — like Avian Flu or drug-resistant TB — can spread to this country in a matter of hours," Waxman said in a statement.

"We have made progress in the decade since the emergence of SARS … But with 80 percent of the world's nations still unprepared to deal with new pandemics, more can and should be done."