The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is launching an Emerging Pandemic Threats (EPT) program that builds on the successes of the Agency's long-standing programs in disease surveillance, training, and outbreak response, particularly those addressing avian and pandemic influenza. The focus of the EPT program is to pre-empt or combat, at their source, newly emerging diseases of animal origin that could threaten human health.
The speed with which diseases of animal origin that pose a risk to humans -- including HIV/AIDS, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), H5N1 avian influenza, and the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus -- can emerge and spread across the increasingly interconnected globe presents enormous public health, economic, and development concerns. This threat underscores the need for a comprehensive, proactive approach that draws on a wide array of technical resources to build sound detection and response capacity. USAID's EPT program will focus resources on detecting dangerous pathogens at an early stage, building appropriate laboratory capacity to support surveillance, responding in an appropriate and timely manner, strengthening national and local response capacities, and educating at-risk populations on how to prevent exposure to these dangerous pathogens. The EPT program is being managed by USAID with technical support from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The EPT program is a comprehensive and interconnected intervention package that will be implemented through five projects, each requiring specific technical skill sets, but which will work harmoniously together to provide seamless technical assistance and expertise in the field. The five projects in the EPT program are as follows:
PREDICT: USAID has awarded a five-year cooperative agreement to a constellation of leading experts in wildlife surveillance including University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Trust, The Smithsonian Institute, and Global Viral Forecasting, Inc. to monitor for and increase the local capacity in "geographic hot spots" to identify the emergence of new infectious diseases in high-risk wildlife such as bats, rodents, and non-human primates that could pose a major threat to human health. This award builds on our current monitoring of wild birds for the H5N1 influenza virus to more broadly address the role played by wildlife in facilitating the emergence and spread of new disease threats.
RESPOND: USAID has awarded a five-year cooperative agreement to a coalition of technical resources including Development Alternatives, Inc., University of Minnesota, Tufts University, Training and Resources Group, and Ecology and Environment, Inc. to strengthen the human capacity of countries to identify and respond to outbreaks of newly emergent diseases in a timely and sustainable manner. This project will focus on the development of outbreak investigation and response training that merges animal and human health dynamics into a comprehensive capacity for disease detection and control. This agreement builds on over 30 years of USAID experience in building long-term capacities in health training through twinning U.S. and local academic institutions.
IDENTIFY: USAID is working with the U.N. World Health Organization (WHO), U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) through existing grants to support the development of laboratory networks and strengthened diagnostic capacities in the "geographic hot spots" for new emergent diseases.
PREVENT: USAID has awarded a five-year cooperative agreement to the Academy for Educational Development and Global Viral Forecasting, Inc. to build an effective behavior change communication response to zoonotic diseases, support efforts to characterize "high-risk" practices that increase the potential for new disease threats from wildlife or wildlife products to spread and infect people, and formulate behavior change and/or communication strategies and interventions that meet the challenges posed by the emergence of a new infectious disease. This award builds on ongoing behavior change and communications efforts by USAID to prevent H5N1 transmission.
PREPARE: USAID has awarded a three-year cooperative agreement to International Medical Corps to provide technical support for simulations and field tests of national, regional, and local pandemic preparedness plans to ensure that countries have the capacity to implement response plans effectively during pandemic events.