Spot the next plague before it arrives. Predict the next swine flu outbreak before it makes headlines. Even detect a biological weapon before it’s launched.
These are the goals of an ambitious initiative, launched Thursday, to build a worldwide surveillance system for infectious diseases.
Spearheaded by the U.S. government, the Global Health Security Agenda brings together 26 countries, the World Health Organization and several other international group. It aims to stop epidemics and bioterror agents before they spread.
Why is such an early warning system needed?
Because the U.S. and the world are at greater risk than ever before from biological organisms, says Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention.
"Viruses are just a plane ride away," he says. Bird flu could spread out of Asia. Ebola could emerge out of central Africa. Or drug-resistant Staphylococcus can sweep through hospital wards. “In today’s globalized world, an outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere,” Frieden says.
The Global Health Security Agenda is an attempt to make the world better prepared to confront those threats, he says. “We want to make sure we do everything we can to prevent emerging organisms from becoming outbreaks and outbreaks from becoming epidemics.”
The illustration shows a flu particle binding to a cell in the respiratory tract. To learn about each component of the virus and how it binds to the cell, check out this version of the illustration with labels and explanations. (CDC)