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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, April 27, 2006

Contact: HHS Press Office
(202) 690-6343

HHS Assistant Secretary Simonson Travels to Bangladesh and India to Enhance Planning for a Potential Influenza Pandemic

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the International Center for Diarrheal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR-B) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will enhance the ability of the South Asian Region to prepare for and respond to a potential influenza pandemic.

The MOU, signed Monday, would help fund the ICDDR-B’s Centre for Health and Population Research to assist in the development and implementation of influenza pandemic national preparedness activities in Bangladesh and surrounding countries. Assistant Secretary Simonson signed the MOU with ICDDR-B Executive Director David Sack, M.D.

“Since viruses do not respect national borders, building international capacity to detect influenza activity is an essential element of pandemic preparedness for the United States,” HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Health Emergency Preparedness Stewart Simonson said. “This Memorandum of Understanding, a result of the strong relationship between the U.S. and Bangladesh, will help better protect the world by strengthening Bangladesh's disease surveillance infrastructure.”

In the late 1960s, the ICDDR-B, was responsible for the initial discovery of oral rehydration solution (ORS) and its benefits for children suffering from severe dehydration caused by diarrheal disease. ORS is credited with saving over one million young lives a year.

Mr. Abdullah Al Noman, Minister, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, and Dr. Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain, Minister, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare attended the MOU signing and delivered supportive remarks. While in Bangladesh, Assistant Secretary Simonson also met with the U.S. Embassy to discuss opportunities for collaboration on influenza preparedness and response.

In India, the Assistant Secretary met with the Regional Director of the World Health Organization's South East Regional Office, senior officials in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, and the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.

On behalf of HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt, Assistant Secretary Simonson has carried out negotiations for similar agreements with the Institut Pasteur and the Gorgas Memorial Institute in Panama. These agreements strengthen the global capacity to detect influenza viruses that could have the potential to trigger a human pandemic.

For additional information about the U.S. Government’s efforts to contain avian influenza and prepare for a potential influenza pandemic, please visit http://www.pandemicflu.gov.

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Last revised: April 27, 2006