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China And US Health Leaders Vow To Cooperate In Fighting Infectious Disease

Sixth diplomatic conference of two countries takes place in Houston for the first time.


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Dr Tom Frieden
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, addressed U.S. and Chinese health officials and scientists at Hotel ZaZa near the Texas Medical Center. The two-day conference explored how the two economic superpowers might cooperate to combat infectious diseases threats such as Ebola, avian flu and drug-resistant tuberculosis.


Health and industrial officials from China and the U.S. gathered in Houston to discuss how the world’s two biggest economic powers can cooperate to fight infectious disease. The meeting is the latest in a series of conferences launched by former President George H.W. Bush in 2003 to promote American-Chinese relations.

Bush’s son Neil Bush revived the conferences after a four-year hiatus and decided to focus on a specific issue instead of general diplomacy. He chose infectious disease, both for its global importance and because it would not interfere with other sensitive areas of bilateral discussion.

“It’s one of the more obvious areas where there’s no political barrier to cooperating,” Bush explained.

The two-day gathering is taking place Tuesday and Wednesday. Dr. Brett Giroir, CEO of the Texas A&M Health Science Center, described it as less a scientific conference than an exploratory discussion between scientists, government officials and even businesses like Sinopec, a state-run Chinese oil and gas company.  

The director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Tom Frieden, offered a keynote lunchtime address Tuesday before a crowd of more than three hundred at a hotel near the Texas Medical Center.

Frieden reviewed a 25-year history of cooperation between the U.S. and China on public health problems, beginning with research on how folic acid deficiency can lead to birth defects. This later led to efforts to add folic acid to many dietary staples.

But Frieden urged both countries to cooperate even more, using the outbreak of the SARS virus in 2003 as an example.

“China has been very straightforward in saying it didn’t do a good job with that,” Frieden recounted. “And immediately after the outbreak they came to us at CDC and said ‘What should we do better? And they took it very seriously.’”

Friden says China now does an excellent job of monitoring viruses like flu.

He asked both the US and China to consider giving money to poorer countries to set up their own CDC-like public health institutes.



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