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Sunday, March 8, 1998 Published at 04:08 GMT


Early warning plan for killer diseases
image: [ The last major outbreak of ebola in Zaire claimed 86 lives ]
The last major outbreak of ebola in Zaire claimed 86 lives

Health experts are to spend $50m to help developing nations in the battle against killer diseases.

The United States Agency for International Development has earmarked $30m for projects in South America, Asia and Africa.

[ image: Electron micrograph of Ebola Zaire virus]
Electron micrograph of Ebola Zaire virus
Dr Nils Daulaire, of AID, said the money would help establish a global early warning system to detect new outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola and Rift Valley Fever.

The spending plan is being outlined at a meeting of international scientists sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

He said the full spending programme had not yet been finalised but plans have been drawn up for the first $30m.

They include:

  • Training local doctors to recognise and report dangerous disease so that outbreaks can be contained.

  • Tuberculosis awareness projects in Honduras

  • Providing drug-treated bed nets to prevent the spread of malaria from mosquito bites in the Amazon Basin

  • Developing strategies to fight infections that have developed resistance to traditional drugs.

    AID is still looking at how best to spend the remaining $20m.

    In the US the $50m windfall from the government, announced last autumn, was largely unexpected. AID is often a target for politicians opposed to spending American resources abroad.

    But Dr Daulaire said: "For years we have looked for nickels and dimes to be doing more.

    "It's a very valuable down payment on both the health of people around the world and on the protection of Americans themselves."

    He said the early warning programme could ensure infectious diseases did not spread to America during an outbreak, as well as improving the health of developing countries.

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