Digital Press Briefing with Dr. John MacArthur, Regional Director, CDC Southeast Asia Regional Office, and Dr. Bill Davis, CDC Regional Influenza Program Director


In a recent digital press briefing, Dr. John MacArthur, Regional Director of CDC Southeast Asia Regional Office, and Dr. Bill Davis, Regional Influenza Program Director of CDC Thailand, discussed the outcomes of the Southeast Asia Regional Influenza Workshop hosted in Bangkok, Thailand. The briefing shed light on CDC’s longstanding commitment to public health partnerships across Southeast Asia and the collective efforts to prevent, detect, and respond to avian influenza. With a focus on collaboration, the workshop aimed to strengthen global health security measures and enhance preparedness for future health crises.

Collaborative Efforts in Southeast Asia:

Dr. MacArthur highlighted the CDC’s extensive work in Southeast Asia, spanning over 70 years. The organization has played a pivotal role in responding to various emerging infectious diseases, including Nipah virus, SARS, multiple avian influenza outbreaks, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. These experiences have emphasized the importance of global cooperation in combating disease threats. By stopping diseases at their source and preventing their spread, the region has made significant progress in disease control. The Avian Influenza Workshop, co-hosted by the CDC, showcased the continued commitment to proactive prevention efforts.

Advancing Disease Surveillance and Response:

Dr. Davis emphasized the timeliness and significance of the workshop, considering the recent surge in highly pathogenic avian influenza A(H5N1) infections among wild birds and poultry worldwide. While the risk of avian influenza transmission to the general population remains low, maintaining vigilance is crucial. The CDC has worked closely with partners in Asia to enhance surveillance and epidemiology capacities for both seasonal and novel influenza, including avian influenza. Routine surveillance at live bird markets, rapid response to human infections, and robust surveillance networks have been pivotal in preventing human-to-human transmission.

Regional Preparedness and Response:

The workshop brought together over 110 participants from eight countries in Southeast Asia, as well as global partners from the U.S. Government, World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health. Deliberations focused on sharing best practices, enhancing surveillance systems, and strengthening response capacities for novel influenza. The workshop highlighted the importance of strong global partnerships and robust surveillance networks across the region. By building preparedness and response capacities, Southeast Asia aims to detect and respond swiftly to avian influenza cases.

Addressing Concerns and Looking Ahead:

During the question-and-answer session, concerns specific to Bangladesh and Southeast Asia’s risk of avian influenza were addressed. Dr. Davis reassured that while H5N1 remains primarily an animal health issue, precautionary measures should be taken around birds for individuals with specific exposures. Collaboration between the CDC and its partners has supported surveillance and rapid response efforts, including support to Bangladesh in surveillance and testing interventions to reduce transmission. Questions regarding the global spread of avian influenza and the availability of vaccines were also addressed. Dr. Davis highlighted the ongoing circulation of H5N1 and the effectiveness of poultry vaccines in controlling the disease. Although no vaccines are currently available for humans, collaborations have led to candidate vaccine viruses that could be utilized if necessary.

Conclusion of the Post

The Southeast Asia Regional Influenza Workshop served as a platform to strengthen collaborative efforts and share knowledge in combating avian influenza. CDC’s commitment to the region, its partnerships, and the continuous improvement of surveillance systems and response capacities were emphasized throughout the briefing. The workshop’s outcomes contribute to global health security by enhancing preparedness, reinforcing surveillance networks, and promoting effective response measures. By prioritizing collaboration and knowledge sharing, Southeast Asia aims to protect the health of its nations and contribute to improved health security worldwide.

By Joshi

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