North American countries agree to coordinate infectious disease efforts

Nov 2, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – The United States, Canada, and Mexico yesterday vowed to help each other during public health emergencies and outlined the types of aid they could provide and accept from each other in the event of a pandemic or other infectious disease outbreak.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by health leaders from the three countries: Mike Leavitt, secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos, Mexico's secretary of health, and Tony Clement, Canada's minister of health, according to an HHS press release from yesterday.

The health ministers were meeting in Washington, D.C, with health representatives from the G7 countries, Mexico, and the European Union at the Global Health Security Initiative's eighth ministerial forum, according to a press release today from Health Canada. Discussion topics included pandemic influenza and biological, chemical, and radionuclear terrorism threats.

"As North American neighbors, we owe it to our citizens to work together whenever possible to minimize the spread and impact of an infectious disease outbreak or other public health emergency that may affect our nations," Leavitt said in the HHS press release.

The memorandum stipulates that all three countries agree to improve their public health emergency preparedness and response as they relate to border health, laboratory testing, diagnosis and treatment, epidemiological investigation, and infectious disease control, the press release said. The countries also agree to share laboratory information before and during an emergency, collaborate on the review and sharing of assay methods, reagents, and laboratory results, and participate in trilateral or bilateral exercises to test emergency response.

In August, leaders from the three nations who met at a security summit in Quebec unveiled a North American pandemic influenza plan designed to share expertise, coordinate public health messages, and overcome anticipated obstacles at national borders.

The memorandum of understanding the health leaders signed yesterday directs the three countries to implement protocols to share:

  • Healthcare and public health personnel
  • Regulated medical products from national stockpiles
  • Unregulated medical supplies from national stockpiles
  • Specimens and reagents from each country's national reference laboratories

See also:

Nov 1 HHS press release

Aug 23 CIDRAP News story "North American pandemic plan takes shape"

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